by Kevin Walsh

In October 2020 FNY featured the 34th Street station complex at Herald and Greeley Squares, where the Broadway (BMT), 6th Avenue (IND) and PATH trains to New Jersey all come together; I called it “one of the largest rapid transit junctions in the United States and is up there worldwide with passenger volumes in normal times.”

However, there’s plenty of competition for the title of the busiest. Three stops south of 34th Street on the Broadway Line serving N/Q/R/W trains, there’s the 14th Street/Union Square complex, where three separate subway routes are built atop the other. There’s the Interborough Rapid Transit 14th Street station on the Lexington Avenue line serving 4/5/6 trains, which is one of the Original 28 subway stations that entered service 10/27/1904. There’s the BMT 14th Street station, which opened in 1915, and lastly another BMT station, the crosstown L line connecting the West Village at 8th Avenue and 14th Street with Canarsie in Brooklyn; that station entered service in 1924.

Passengers here can ride to such far flung NYC locales as Woodlawn Cemetery, Wakefield, Flatbush, Bay Ridge, Coney Island, Forest Hills, Astoria and Canarsie.

Today it’s the IRT 14th Street station that concerns me, and its tremendous Grueby Faience eagle plaques that can be seen in a corridor above the IRT tracks.

Since it’s built on a sharp curve, 14th Street joins South Ferry as one of two stations with mechanical movable platforms that fill the large gaps between the cars and the platforms. The 14th Street “gap fillers” were added as early as 1914 and relocated in 1955 (local) and 1962 (express).

Like Brooklyn Bridge and 96th Street, 14th Street has a pair of abandoned side platforms that are mostly covered by a wall and sets of grills, though some of the platform pokes out in spots. Fortunately, some of the artwork from the side platforms, including the eagle plaques, have been preserved along with some of the station walls, as a 1998 art installation by Mary Miss (Miss Miss to you) entitled Framing Union Square.

It’s been said that faience and mosaic eagles in stations indicate that armories were located above the stations, but that’s only true here at 33rd Street IRT Lexington Avenue station, where the 71st Regiment Armory once stood. At Brooklyn Bridge and 14th Street, no such armories existed, and yet, eagle plaques were produced for those stations as well. The remaining Brooklyn Bridge eagles are maintained in an area not open to the public. Only 33rd Street displays the eagles in situ, or in their original positions.

From Comments: The 9th Regiment Armory was on 14th Street between 6th & 7th Avenues, across the street from the Salvation Army headquarters.

One puzzler for me is the inclusion of 14 stars on the shield, instead of the usual 13, for the 13 original states. Perhaps the designer felt that 13 stars could not be distributed evenly, though other designs I’ve seen are up to that challenge.

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



Gregg Goldberg October 28, 2020 - 11:17 pm

The reason why there are 14 stars is because the station is 14 St, number of stars to match the numbered street

Pete October 29, 2020 - 9:43 am

Nice to see these historic details of NYC. Always appreciate your efforts to preserve them photographically and comments.
As a graphic artist for 50 years, trained in NYC publishing companies, there were assignments where we could use our artistic license to enhance the message.
I think the creator of this eagle wanted the stars to match the large number represented in the shield and forgo the usual thirteen colonies rule.

Kevin Walsh October 30, 2020 - 10:34 am

See other comments about this.

Mitchell Pak October 29, 2020 - 1:07 pm

Slight correction – the South Ferry station that has the movable platforms is the old station from 1905, which is now closed in favor of the new one. It was
originally closed after the new one went into service in 2011 but it was reopened after the new one was swamped during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The
new one has since been drained and repaired and the old one has been closed again.

John October 29, 2020 - 1:08 pm

The South Ferry “terminal” has been re-opened after Sandy’s destruction.

Andy October 29, 2020 - 2:20 pm

Another competitor for the busiest subway interchange is 14th Street and 6th Avenue. On the top level, you have the IND F and PATH tunnels, parallel to each other. The IND sits astride the PATH tracks, which are in the middle of the street. Running perpendicular on the middle level are the two BMT 14th St-Canarsie L tracks. On the lowest level, and out of sight because there is no station there, are the IND 6th Ave. lower level express tracks, carrying B and D trains. And via a connecting passageway below 14th Street a passenger can access, without additional fare, the IRT #1, 2, 3 station at 7th Ave. and 14th St. Believe it’s the only interchange where the IRT, BMT, IND, and PATH are all under one roof.

Nora October 29, 2020 - 2:46 pm

14 stars for 14th St?

Kevin Walsh October 30, 2020 - 10:31 am

See previous comment.

Ed Findlay October 29, 2020 - 6:02 pm

14 for 14th St. seems pretty straightforward and smart stylistic choice to me

Kevin Walsh October 30, 2020 - 10:31 am

However: the shields at 33rd also have 14 stars.

Ed Findlay November 1, 2020 - 11:15 pm

why create a whole new mold when you have a perfectly good one? artists are picky…as you can attest

John Telesca October 29, 2020 - 9:48 pm

The 9th Regiment Armory was on 14th Street between 6th & 7th Avenues, across the street from the Salvation Army headquarters. I bet that’s your eagle connection.

Ed Findlay November 1, 2020 - 11:39 pm

Brooklyn Bridge did actually have an armory near it: the New York City Civil Court building sits on top of the former property, it’s close enough to earn the eagle denotation

The 14th St. Armory actually lived on until 1994: over 131 years of continuous usage by the militia/National Guard before being closed and razed You’ve probably walked by the former site at 125 West 14th Street before https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/armories/NewYorkCityWest14thStreet42ndDivision.html

chris brady November 8, 2020 - 11:48 am

I can still recall word for word the recorded message about the moving platform at 14th st.that was pure torture to have to
listen to even though I havent been there in more than 50 years.
“Please stand clear of the moving platform as the train enters…..”
Talk about being brainwashed.


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