I wish I knew the exact location of this photo from 1960, but I don’t. The photo shows some of the last remaining entrance and exit kiosks, constructed by the IRT, or Interborough Rapid Transit (today’s numbered subway lines) for its original 28 stations from City Hall north to 145th Street along Elm (now Lafayette Street) 4th/Park Avenue South, 42nd Street and Broadway.
The kiosks originally had separate entrance (domed roofs) and exit (peaked roofs) structures, though I’m not sure if that distinction was carried through all the way to the kiosks’ extinction in the late 1960s.
They were always specifically referred to as “kiosks” because they were modeled after entrance and exit structures found on the oldest lines of the Budapest, Hungary’s subway (known as the Metro), constructed in 1896, which were in turn reminiscent of Hungarian summer houses, called ‘kushks’ that were modeled after similar ones found in Turkey and Persia. (New York City has not constructed an entire new subway line since the 1930s, while Budapest’s newest line opened in 2014. The NYC Second Avenue Line is supposed to open three stations in 2016).
Pretty early on, these entrance kiosks, placed on relatively narrow avenues and streets in Midtown, were interfering with sight lines of motorists and accidents were getting frequent, so they were replaced with much less elaborate staircases and railings. All had been torn down by 1968.
In 1986, a replica of one of the entrance kiosks was made from original IRT planning sheets and was installed on a traffic island at Astor Place and Cooper Square.
See Off the Grid for more on the long-lost examples of subway architecture.
This photo, taken at Columbus Circle in 1904, is especially interesting. On the left, you can see Little Liberty, a 37-foot tall replica of Miss Liberty placed atop the Liberty Warehouse on West 64th Street. When the warehouse was torn down in the early 2000s, Little Liberty was moved to the parking lot at the Brooklyn Museum near Prospect Park.
Photo courtesy Frank Vizza.