The old City Hall subway station—the city’s first, opening in 1904—is one of those places I’ve always meant to tour, but I never got around to it. Then someone asked in a comment about it, and I investigated. The hour-long tours aren’t frequently offered, and you have to be a member of the New York Transit Museum. (If anyone knows another way in, please let me know.) Annual membership is $50 (but only $65 for two adults or $80 for families of four, with further discounts for students, seniors, and so on); the tour is $40 per person, and I got the sense you’ll want to pounce when tickets go on sale.
Adam and I went a couple of weekends ago, and whether the tour is worth the cost depends in good part, I suppose, on how much you value exploring someplace otherwise off limits and whether you’ll use the other membership amenities. I definitely enjoyed it, perhaps because I told myself I would post a photo essay and not much more, so I didn’t have to
listen to the guide take notes. There’s been quite a bit written about the station online—the Wikipedia link at the top gives good background—and besides, you get a handout about the station, which I read before we embarked. You take the 6 south from the Brooklyn Bridge stop, and the train stops at the old station just for the group—it felt Harry Potter–esque to stand on a platform in order to go somewhere most everyone else didn’t even know about. Similarly, it was also a treat to see, as trains went by in the station, passengers gape in amazement not just at the old station but at us, waving at them and taking their photo.
The station was decommissioned in 1945 because the Brooklyn Bridge stop—with local and express trains—was so popular that it rendered the flagship station unnecessary.
P.S. The lightbulbs were made with treads in the reverse direction, so if people stole them, they wouldn’t be able to use them elsewhere.