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.