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.