The Most Fascinating Abandoned Subway Stations in New York

The old City Hall subway station
The old City Hall subway station | © Felix Lipov/Shutterstock
Photo of Peter Ward
Tech Editor28 June 2019

The New York City subway began operations in 1904 and has evolved to become the behemoth of twisted tunnels we know today. During that evolution, some parts of the system were found to be no longer useful, and these underground tombs of transport are still discoverable. Here are the four most fascinating abandoned subway stations in NYC.

Old City Hall, Manhattan

Perhaps the best-known station no longer in use is old City Hall. In 1904, the first-ever subway ride in New York City left from the City Hall station. Designed by architects Heins & LaFarge, the station featured elegant chandeliers, skylights and vaulted tile ceilings created by artisan Rafael Guastavino. The station was closed in 1945, mostly because it was built without the practicalities of larger trains in mind, rendering it one of the least-used stations in Manhattan.

However, the old City Hall station is not totally out of action – there are still a couple of ways to check it out. The first is to book a tour with the New York Transit Museum, but they only run sporadically throughout the year, and you must be a member of the museum to claim a spot. The second is a little sneakier, and although it won’t get you on the platform, it will give you a brief glimpse of its grandeur. The last stop downtown for the number 6 subway train is Brooklyn Bridge, where passengers are asked to disembark. But if you keep out of sight and stay put, the train loops around to go uptown and travels through the Old City Hall station. The seventh, eighth and ninth cars on the train are recommended for the best view.

The ticket office at the City Hall subway station circa 1903 | © Glasshouse Images/REX/Shutterstock

Court Street, Brooklyn

The former Court Street stop in Brooklyn, which closed in 1946, is the most accessible of all abandoned stations, as the New York Transit Museum is built around it. Founded in 1976, the museum houses a rotating selection of 20 subway and elevated cars, some of which date back as far as 1907. The exhibition was initially part of the United States Bicentennial celebrations and was intended to be temporary, but was later made into a permanent museum due to popular demand.

The decommissioned station has made many cinematic appearances over the years, its most famous being in the 1974 movie The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

The New York Transit Museum houses vintage trains at the old Court Street station | © Felix Lipov / Alamy Stock Photo

South Fourth Street, Brooklyn

In 2009, an abandoned subway station in New York City was visited by a group of daredevil artists who covered the cavernous space in paintings and murals. The Underbelly Project, led by street artists PAC and Workhouse, saw 103 international artists sneak unnoticed into the belly of the subway system and transform the disused station into the most exclusive art studio in town. Although the location of this particular station has never been confirmed by either the Underbelly organizers or transit officials, it is believed to be South Fourth Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Visiting the station is illegal and highly dangerous, however, so it’s best to admire the artwork via this video instead of trying to make the trip yourself.

91st Street, Manhattan

This station shut down in 1959 but is still visible from the 1 train between the 86th Street and 96th Street stops. It’s visible for mere seconds, and it’s tough to properly see what secrets the station holds, but in 1999 a New York Times reporter entered the empty platform in the hope of answering that question. What André Aciman found was trash – and lots of it. “This wasn’t just the detritus of a subway station, but the leftovers of mole people,” Aciman wrote.

Trains sit in a subway yard in NYC | © AP/REX/Shutterstock

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