91st STREET ENTRANCE, Upper West Side

by Kevin Walsh

This subway entrance on Broadway caught my interest for two reasons: one, it’s for a long-closed subway entrance, and two, as the time “stamp” indicates, it was taken on my birth date, August 22, 1957, so it’s a snapshot of what New York City looked like when I entered the scene from stage left.

The photo shows one 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. Budapest’s newest line opened in 2014, while the first stage of NYC’s new Second Avenue Line opened three stations on January 1, 2017.

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 renovated in the early 2000s, Little Liberty was moved to the parking lot at the Brooklyn Museum near Prospect Park.

The 91st Street station was originally one of the original batch of IRT subway stations opened in 1904. In the 1950s, the city decided to extend the platforms along the #1 Broadway local’s west side stations, and such an extension would have brought the 91st Street station’s platforms too close to those of the next station at 96th Street. Thus, the 91st Street station was deemed redundant and closed in 1959, as had been the IRT original station at 18th Street some years earlier and Worth Street would be in 1962.

Way back in 1999, I took some (fairly bad) shots in the abandoned 18th Street station.

More on the abandoned 91st Street station from Joe Brennan and Untapped Cities.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”

2/24/20

14 comments

Andy February 24, 2020 - 11:36 am

91st Street/Broadway was one of six local stations – the others being 86th, 79th, 66th, 59th, and 50th Streets – on original West Side IRT built with five car local platforms. From 1904, until 1959, the primary service that served those stops was the 7th Ave. Local, the ancestor of today’s #3 train, which operated all times between South Ferry and 145th-Lenox making all stops. Additionally, there was the weekdays only Broadway-7th Ave. Local, an ancestor of today’s #1 train, which operated between 137th/Broadway and South Ferry. This service pattern also required trains to be crossed north of 96th Street, since some express trains operated between Upper Broadway and Brooklyn, running local above 96th Street.

The five local stations from 86th to 50th were lengthened for ten car trains. The service pattern on the West Side IRT was simplified so that all upper Broadway (#1) trains ran local between South Ferry and 242nd St. full time. Newer and faster R22 cars replaced the vintage Low-V equipment; the service was dubbed the “Hi-Speed Local.” All Lenox Avenue services (#2 and #3) ran express on Broadway south of 96th Street, eliminating the delays caused by crossing trains. 96th Street Station was rebuilt with a new set of stairways on Broadway between 93rd and 94th Streets, eliminating the need to retain 91st Street and lengthen its platforms.

This entire service pattern began in February 1959 and is basically the same today. The new #1 Broadway Local trains were originally 8 cars in 1959 (because some local stations south of Times Square had that platform length), but since the mid-1960s all trains have been ten cars.

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Mitch45 February 24, 2020 - 2:38 pm

There was a brief foray of 11-car trains on the Flushing line some years back.

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Andy February 25, 2020 - 6:10 pm

I was referring to the West Side IRT (#`1,2,3) when I said that all trains have been ten cars since the mid-1960s. Flushing Line has been 11 cars since the 1964 World’s Fair.

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Fred Glazer February 24, 2020 - 2:31 pm

The Worth St station was not closed before 1959, but in 1962 when the Brooklyn Bridge station platforms were lengthened.

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Edward Findlay February 25, 2020 - 10:35 am

Little Liberty’s building wasn’t torn down…it was extensively renovated. Little Lady Liberty was removed, but the building was never torn down.

https://www.nyc-architecture.com/UWS/UWS004.htm

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anja February 26, 2020 - 12:26 pm

Budapest has the second oldest subway system in the world. First one in continental Europe.

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edward findlay March 5, 2020 - 8:04 am

actually, that’s not true…London may be older, but it wasn’t electrified until almost 50 years after opening. Budapest is the first true electric subway line, followed by Boston.

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Tal Barzilai February 28, 2020 - 8:03 pm

Are there any hints to where the entrance used to be when going around 91st Street today or was every last trace of it removed?

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Joe Fliel March 1, 2020 - 12:11 am

The S/B entrance was located directly across from 2461 Broadway. The color of the sidewalk pavement near the curb is darker, indicating the kiosk’s former location.

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Andy March 1, 2020 - 10:50 am

There is likely a vent grating in the sidewalk where the entrances were on both sides of Broadway, because the old platforms were probably retained as an emergency exit location. Not 100% sure, but most likely.

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Joe Fliel March 2, 2020 - 4:38 pm

There is no physical evidence remaining of the station at street level. The only signs are the different colored cement sidewalk slabs where the kiosks once stood. Google “W. 91st St. & Broadway”, click on “Maps, use Street View and look at the sidewalk on the NW corner of the S/B side of Broadway in front of 2461.

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Kiwiwriter March 3, 2020 - 3:34 pm

If you walk onto the median between northbound and southbound Broadway, you will see that the ventilator/illuminator grilles are still in place for the 91st Street Station.

I remember going past it as a kid in the early 1960s, and the lights in it were still on, for some reason. Probably because it was only closed as late as 1959.

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Tal Barzilai March 3, 2020 - 6:53 pm

Speaking of 96th Street, not that long ago two little station houses were built on the Broadway Mall while closing off the ones on the street corners, though I don’t know why that was done in the first place.

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Jeff June 15, 2020 - 9:23 pm

I vaguely remember I was around 4 years old walking down 91st and broadway, seeing a five and dime type of store that dominated a good part of the block. I remember it became key food in the fall of 1964. It looks like the building still stands. But it was my brief exposure to what was the 1950’s type of store with a red Coke machine that I remember stood inside. Anyone remember if it was a Woolworths or what and anything more in detail about that store.?

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