Interborough Rapid Transit System, Underground Stations


Wall Street, New York, NY, United States

Heins & LaFarge

BUILT 1904: 1908


Entire interior, including staircases and skylights


City Hall Subway Station, IRT: Few New Yorkers today know about this extraordinary space underneath City Hall Park. But when New York’s first subway (Interborough Rapid Transit, IRT service) opened in 1904, its stations were widely lauded as stunning works of public art. Each station has its own distinctive identity, and 14 of them are interior landmarks.

The City Hall station was the system’s crowning achievement, with vaulted ceilings of terra cotta Guastavino tile, colored moldings, decorative faience plaques, and leaded glass skylights.

As ridership mushroomed over the years, the station outlived its usefulness, its sharply-curved configuration unable to accommodate longer modern trains. It was closed in 1945, and despite its landmark designation, it is no longer accessible to the public. For those unwilling to wait for the rare scheduled tours, the station can be seen while riding the downtown No. 6 train, as it passes through the turnaround to go back uptown.

Photographs 1–3 by Michael Freeman © All rights reserved