As you know, I’ve been bitching about the massive, never ending amount of construction at 59th Street Columbus Circle. Well, the builders just recently discovered a little piece of subway history. They found this plaque mounted behind a false wall.
The plaque dates from before the IRT line even ran there…prior to 1901! How cool is that?
It just makes me wonder what kind of historic artifacts are hidden behind walls all over the city. Little bits of history, just covered up and forgotten.
It turns out that the 59th Street station was a kind of proving ground for the architects Heins & LaFarge in 1901, three years before the Interborough Rapid Transit Company trains began running through it.
“The architects used its walls as an art gallery, experimenting with decorative ideas in various colors of tiles and other materials,” Philip Ashforth Coppola wrote in “Silver Connections: A Fresh Perspective on the New York Area Subway Systems” (Four Oceans Press, 1984). “When the real decorating of Columbus Circle began, all these preliminary experiments were covered over and forgotten.” That is, until this fall. [From NY Times. Read more here]
There’s talk about carefully cutting it out of the wall and placing it in the transit museum. I wish they would leave it right where it is, maybe restore it a little bit, and make it available for people to see. The could do something artistic with the way the wall is peeled away just around the plaque part itself. It’s really cool, as a rider, to come across these little treasures.