The IRT‘s original City Hall station was part of NYC‘s first major subway project and designed as a sort of ceremonial terminal. Construction began on 24 March 1900 in front of City Hall; the steps of the building leading to the station’s entrance. From this vantage point, NYC mayors could expound on the benefits of mass transit and, more or less, interact with the citizenry
The station was open to the public in October of 1904. Unlike most subway stations, it had a unique, sharply curved platform; a Guastavino tile arched ceiling in addition to the more basic (for the time) skylights and plaques honoring its construction.
Unfortunately, its location at this turning loop, at a time when more practically configured uptown and local trains the station noisy and poorly situated. Improperly designed platforms, riddled with gaps, also made it unsafe. The station was closed at night, local trains by-passing it on their way to South Ferry; and even when it was open it was limited to an “entrance only” station. After a disappointing forty-one years of service, the station was finally closed in 1945.
In April 1995, efforts to reopen the City Hall station as part of the newly created NYC Transit Museum were introduced. The loop track was re-classed from “yard track” (or maintenance track) to “mainline,” which allowed the public to view the station without special permission. The commemorative plaques which had been moved to Brooklyn Bridge station in 1962 were reinstalled in their original positions in 1996. Everything fell through when the awaited funding never materialized and in 1998 the plans were canceled.
The City Hall station remains, an unseen yet ghostly presence frozen in time beneath Manhattan’s crowded streets and alongside its speeding trains: Out of sight in the onrush of progress and out of mind in the onrush of history.