In light of the problems with our subway system, State of the Arts NYC thought it would be good to see why New Yorkers care so much about our subways including our elected officials

The official start of construction for the City Hall Station took place on March 24, 1900, at the front steps of City Hall, at a ceremony officiated by then-Mayor Robert Van WyckAfter construction was complete, this station was the chosen place for hanging commemorative plaques recognizing the achievement of building the entire New York City Subway system. A mezzanine area above the platform once had an ornamented oak ticket booth (which no longer exists.

The subway opened to the public on October 27, 1904, after opening ceremonies the day before attended by Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr. More than 15,000 people were issued passes for the first series of rides from the platform. At precisely 2:35 p.m., the first subway train departed from City Hall station with Mayor McClellan at the controls. The event was so heavily attended that police Commissioner McAdoo said every policeman in the city was on duty all day and far into the night. At the time of the opening, President A. E. Orr of the Rapid Transit Board requested that all New Yorkers join in the celebration by blowing whistles and ringing bells. At street level, in the pavement in front of City Hall, a plaque can still be seen commemorating groundbreaking for the subway in 1900.

At the time, the station was also called “City Hall Loop. Unlike the rest of the subway line, the City Hall station had tall tile arches, brass fixtures, chandeliers, skylights, polychrome tile, and elegant curves that ran along the platform. It was lit by wrought iron chandeliers and the three skylights of cut amethyst glass that allowed sunshine onto parts of the platform. During World War II, the skylights were blacked out with tar for safety.

The station was designed by Rafael Guastavino, and makes extensive use of classic Guastavino tile to sheathe its soaring roof arches. The main consulting architects on the IRT stations were George Lewis Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge for the company Heins & LaFarge. This station is unusually elegant in architectural style, and is unique among the original IRT stations, employing Romanesque Revival architecture. The travel magazine Travel + Leisure ranked the station 12th in its list of “the most beautiful subway stations in the world” in November 2009.

North of the City Hall station, the IRT Lexington Avenue Line carries four tracks. As seen in the track diagram, left to right, these are the downtown local track, the downtown express track, the uptown express track, and the uptown local track.

South of the Brooklyn Bridge station, there is a switch on the downtown local track, allowing trains to leave service and enter either of two storage tracks. Trains in service turn onto a balloon loop, continuing past the abandoned side platform on the west side of the loop, and re-appearing in the Brooklyn Bridge station on the uptown local track. The uptown and downtown express tracks pass over the loop, continuing south.

In the station itself is one curved five-car-long side platform serving a single balloon loop track.

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