by Kevin Walsh

Electrical substations perform a number of tasks including transforming voltage from high to low or vice versa, or generate, transmit or distribute electrical voltage as needed. There are dozens such electrical substations around NYC, and most are rather functional and boring in appearance — except the ones built in the 1930s for the IND, such as this one at West 133rd Street off St. Nicholas Avenue, in Harlem the home of the 8th Avenue lines, A and C.


Although Machine Age Moderne is reflected in IND stations’ use of block lettering and bold colors, it’s on the IND’s rare elevated sections (mostly in Brooklyn) and its electrical substations that real design elements can shine such as stylized concrete ornamentation, patterned brickwork and intricate metalwork, the creations of skilled designers and artisans who no doubt were happy to be working during the Great Depression years.

“Comment…as you see fit.”



Jeff B. May 31, 2017 - 11:14 pm

The IND Concourse Yard entrance buildings on W205 St also have this same style of architecture. The entry closest to Paul Av is where it is seen best. I used to pass here in the 60s & early 70s all the time and I remember the doors being that style too.

I wouldn’t call the original IRT substations plain. Each exterior was different architectural style.

David June 1, 2017 - 12:47 pm

My favorite is the Greenwich Substation which rounds the soft corner of Greenwich Avenue and 13th Street, and is quite ornate.

Gary Fonville June 3, 2017 - 4:34 pm

Look for more substations on FNY at IND SUBSTATIONS from October, 2012.

William Mangahas June 4, 2017 - 12:30 pm

Love that classic art deco styling.

Elvin Rodriguez June 7, 2017 - 9:58 am

Little things like this is what makes FNY great. I always look out for them when I am in town from CT.
My friends love when I casually pass on the knowledge during our visits.

Tal Barzilai June 9, 2017 - 4:25 pm

At first glance I wouldn’t have thought that was a substation for the subways, but I guess for Manhattan, they aren’t always so obvious to notice.

John Nickles February 2, 2020 - 7:13 pm

Saw the structure in this video and had to learn more about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJ4qQtlM3t0
Would love to see the inside and if any tunnel networks connect to it.


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