In 1908 the IRT Subway was extended to Brooklyn for the first time, and Heins and LaFarge, the architects who constructed most of the subway’s early stations and stationhouses, erected this grand entrance house in the triangle formed by Atlantic, Flatbush and 4th Avenues, known as Times Plaza after the nearby offices of a long-disappeared newspaper.
This is how I remember this entrance as a kid in the 1960s and 1970s. As you can see, it had been completely surrounded by the awnings of a grungy hot dog stand, which was there for many years. All this while, the equally grandiose Long Island Rail Road terminal across the street at Flatbush Avenue and Hanson Place, which had been built in 1907, was subject to the same amount of disrepair and decline as Manhattan’s great Penn Station. The LIRR Brooklyn terminal continued to crumble, until large sections of it began to be closed off. Eventually, there was only an underground entrance from the subway, the building came down in 1988, and there was a hole on the ground for about 20 years. Finally, a new, modern, utterly bland and purely functionary terminal was built on the site.
The little subway entrance, though, persevered all these years. By the 1980s, the hot dog stand was gone, and it stood, denuded and mostly a graffiti-marred shell, for about 20 years. In the early 2000s, as part of the overall renovations of what is now called the Barclays Center station, it was restored as a glorified skylight. You can’t enter the station from here any more, but at least it’s still there.
Undoubtedly it will undergo future cycles of disrepair and revival.
Image from Brooklyn Historical Society.