While London boasts the world’s oldest underground train network (opened in 1863) and Boston built the first subway in the United States in 1897, on 27 October 1904 the first New York City subway system opened to the general public at 5 cents per ride. The 9-mile line ran from City Hall to 145th Street and Broadway. It now has become the only rapid transit system in the world that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Much needed as more people pass through the NYC subway every single day than live in all of Denmark!
Times Square Mural by Roy Lichtenstein, fabricated in 1994 and installed in 2002 in the Times Square – 42nd Street Subway station.
The New York Subway has artworks throughout its network. For a list of all the works, please go to: https://www.nycsubway.org/perl/artwork
But it is not just the major commissions, also look out for intricate ceramic tile work, some of it dating back to 1904 when the subway first opened.
New York City’s stations stand apart in their overwhelming use of tiles and mosaics, initiated by subway art director/engineer Squire Vickers in the 1910s, at the end of the Arts and Crafts era, and continued by him into the 1930s, with the IND’s precise Machine Age graphics. After Vickers was gone, the subways seemed rootless, with a wide variety of different schemes, some effective, some not.
In recent years, the MTA has restored much of Vickers’ work, especially along the BMT Broadway line, and new mosaic installations have appeared that seem to extrapolate Vickers’ ethos, adapting it to a more playful, innovative age, with additional colours and images.
Well, and this is New York after all, so plenty of things to see while on the train too!