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Best Underground History Lesson


It’s all about the arches. When it opened in 1904, the City Hall train stop stood as the elegant centerpiece of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company’s Manhattan Main Line. Arch-happy architect Rafael Guastavino whipped up a graceful beauty: The train platform runs beneath a curving ceiling striated by great ribs of tiled arches. During the day, skylights honeyed the tunnel below, augmenting the light cast by a series of bronze chandeliers. It’s hard not to think of a snake as you survey the tight coil of track or the lobby’s gentle, even sensual curves — the station, which closed in 1945, feels like some grand jeweled husk left by a serpent that grew far beyond it. In order to tour the station, you must be a member of the New York Transit Museum (an investment of $50 — $65 for a dual membership; $35 for students and seniors) and spring for a $50 ticket, but the thrill of haunting this dead space — and getting the lowdown from the museum’s experts — more than justifies the price tag.

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