Co.Design

Stunning NYC Subway Station Hidden in Plain Sight, Until Now

New York's City Hall station isn't open to the public, but in-the-know subway riders can still see its hidden beauty.

There are many things to love about New York's venerable subway system, but eye-popping design ain't one of 'em.

Unless you know how to find the secret City Hall 6-train station, that is. Betcha' didn't know this underground cathedral was hidden under your feet this whole time (we sure didn't):

Photo ©2008 John-Paul Palescandolo

Originally designed in 1904 as a showpiece for the Interborough Rapid Transit Company's "Manhattan Main Line," the station was boarded up in 1945. The city started restoring the City Hall station as a transit museum prior to 9/11, but security concerns killed the plan. The station is still closed to the public. Here's an old diagram showing its location in relation to the Brooklyn Bridge station. The City Hall station is in the big loop on the left.

So how do you catch a glimpse of this awesomeness? All it takes is patience: Simply stay on the 6 train instead of getting off at Brooklyn Bridge, the last stop. The train actually makes a turnaround through City Hall station as it starts its return trip uptown.

Photo © 2009 Fred Guenther

NYC transit buffs have known this trick for years. Now, the rest of us are in on the secret. And for all you non-New Yorkers out there, you'll always have the pictures: They're an amazing look into old urban design made new.

[More pictures and info at Jalopnik and NYCsubway.org]

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9 Comments

  • Bellamycay

    This is probably the subway station/platform mentioned in Diane Duane's 1983 novel SO YOU WANT TO BE A WIZARD, where two young wizards use a space/time dislocation spell that places the station a fraction of a second out of sync with the rest of the universe (thereby making it inaccessible) in order to protect the dragon "Eldest" who had made his hord lair in the station. Maybe this is why the station has been "hidden" to so many for so long. (Many of the themes from this book were used in Ghostbusters I & II).

    Only those with adventuresome imagination can appreciate that.

  • John Riecke

    Too bad it's been closed for "security" purposes.  It's also a shame that we don't take care in the design of many public spaces.  Too many nut jobs out there who think anything past utilitarian brutalism is "wasting taxes".

  • Shannon Light

    Considering Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 was filmed here... yeah I'm pretty sure they do know about it :)

  • NilsBoray

    Don't know about in the US, but in UK (& I know France) the subway map showing this city hall loop is displayed as part of the "ambience" in all Subway fast food outlets - so it looked fairly familiar even though I've never really looked at it before.

    Great pics - also lots of lost underground stations in London too if you Google around

  • Martina

    I'm surprised to see this article, this isn't a secret- MTA Museum has been offering tours for years!