YOU cannot accuse the MTA of ignoring Canal Street. In previous eras, the IRT, BMT and IND have all constructed major stations at the east-west Manhattan route that traces the old pathway of a canal that was used to drain the Collect Pond in the post-Revolutionary era. It’s not only a major shopping street…in an unfortunate situation, it’s a ground trucking route connecting the Manhattan Bridge and Holland Tunnel. (While I reject the idea of a Lower Manhattan Expressway on an elevated trestle or in an open cut, I’d be for creating a tunnel connecting the two crossings). There are no less than five Canal Street stations: two BMT, two IRT and one IND! And the two BMT stations and the IND have transfers to many other lines.
There used to be other Canal Street stations, too…on elevated lines. Here’s one of the more spectacular views you could have had from an elevated station, on the Third Avenue El running up the Bowery. In view, of course, is the massive arch marking the Manhattan side of the Manhattan Bridge. This image has been kicking around Facebook for some time.
The grand Manhattan Bridge plaza, which fronts the Bowery at Canal Street, was completed in 1916 and is the design of John M. Carrere and Thomas Hastings, who also built the New York Public Library at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street. They looked to two classic European monuments for inspiration: The Porte St-Denis in Paris (the arch) and the Giovanni Bernini Colonnade at St. Peter’s Church in Vatican City.
The Porte St-Denis and Porte St-Martin in Paris are triumphal arches that celebrate military victories by “the Sun King”, Louis XIV (note the words ‘Ludovico Magno’ atop the arch). The St-Denis arch was completed in 1674 by sculptor Nicolas François Blondel. Bas-reliefs on the top and sides commemorate war campaigns and victories. Both arches greatly influenced the later Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the Manhattan Bridge arch, which as you can see is a close homage.
Also note on the left the neon “Diamonds.” sign. Casual observers correctly note that Manhattan’s Diamond District is located on West 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. However, there is an older diamond district centered on the Bowery north of Canal Street that is still there in large degree through it’s true that the Midtown district dwarfs it.
Lastly, note the blue and white enamel sign, wood planked platform, and simple lampposts with incandescent bulbs, elements of elevated trains that today have disappeared. The section of the 3rd Avenue el that passed the Manhattan Bridge ended service in 1955.
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