An Open Day at the New York City Marble Cemetery

Green space has always been at a premium in New York City, and historically the public parks were few and far between. So where could the city’s residents relax on a summer Sunday afternoon, perhaps with a good book or a picnic? As strange as it may sound today, New Yorkers of the past often headed to the cemetery. Today, there are only a handful of of cemeteries in the borough of Manhattan (property values pushing most cemeteries to the outer boroughs), but there are still a few historic cemeteries around.

One special cemetery is the New York City Marble Cemetery, founded in 1831. The cemetery is designated a New York City Landmark and is also on the National Register of Historic Places. Although the cemetery isn’t usually open to the public, there are designated “open” days several times a year. On those days, it is possible for visitors to experience life as it was in the nineteenth century, picnicking and relaxing in the park-like space.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the New York City Marble Cemetery on one of the open days. It was a beautiful day, and visitors had gathered to explore the cemetery and relax on its grounds. Here are some photos from my visit.

Want to visit the New York City Marble Cemetery yourself? It is located on East Second Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, between First and Second Avenues. The closest subway stop is the F train’s Second Avenue station, and the M15 bus runs up and down First and Second Avenues as well. Make sure you check the cemetery’s website, available here, for the dates that the cemetery is open to the public. (Note: There’s another historic cemetery named the New York Marble Cemetery, a short distance away on Second Avenue. It’s also open to the public on occasion.)


New York City’s African Burial Ground

New York City’s reputation for growth and emphasis on new, bigger, and better has often resulted in the loss of historical architecture. Similarly, the passage of time has obscured significant aspects of the city’s diverse social history. The city’s growth occasionally serves the opposite function, however: it unearths previously forgotten and hidden parts of the city’s past. Such is the case with the African Burial Ground.

In 1991, the federal government was in the process of excavating a site just north of City Hall in preparation for a new administrative building. As the workers removed layer after layer of accumulated soil, they began exposing colonial-era graves. Research revealed that the location was part of the African Burial Ground, a site where free and enslaved African Americans in New York City buried their dead in the late 17th and 18th centuries. The discovery created quite a controversy. Some graves had been damaged by construction efforts before workers realized that the site contained human remains, and modern-day descendants of slaves believed that building on top of the cemetery was disrespectful.

Eventually, a compromise was reached. Archaeologists carefully removed 419 sets of human remains from the site, and those remains were sent to scholars at Howard University for study. (It’s believed that 15,000 or more people were originally buried throughout the full cemetery, which extended beyond the current building site.) After scholars learned as much as possible about what those remains tell us about African-American life in the New York colony, each set of remains was carefully placed in individual coffins, handmade by craftsmen from Ghana, and then interred on the grounds of the new African Burial Ground National Monument. The federal office building was eventually completed next door, and the first floor of that building now houses the monument’s Visitors’ Center.

The Visitors’ Center is very well done, educating visitors about a number of important and interesting themes. I’m not always a fan of Visitors’ Center introductory films, but the one here is excellent. It’s not very long (only 15-20 minutes), and definitely worth taking the time to see it.

One of the first things that grabs your attention is this life-sized burial scene, complete with audio. You can even sit on one of the benches located nearby, absorbing the solemnity of the burial of one slave family’s husband and father and another family’s infant child.


As you explore further, you will learn more about the challenges that slaves faced in colonial New York City, including details about their working and living conditions. You will encounter a few slaves (as well as free African Americans) that we know more about because of historical records, and you will be able to read for yourself examples of the laws that were passed to maintain English colonists’ power over their African slaves.



Artifacts such as this contemporary newspaper advertisement for runaway slaves were sobering.


If you are interested in archaeology, you will find the parts of the exhibition that focus on the exhumed graves fascinating. The exhibit includes photos of each of the graves – here are just a few of them.


Additionally, the exhibit demonstrates how much scholars were able to learn about the health, working conditions, etc. of each buried person by providing a lot more information about one individual, Burial No. 101.


The outdoor monument is a peaceful, architecturally striking place. Its design is filled with multiple layers of meaning, from the mounds of earth covered in green grass, where the excavated remains were reburied, to African symbols and their translations, to various commemorations of the dead. Here are a few of the photos I took of the monument to give you a sense of what the space is like.







Located only a short distance from City Hall, the African Burial Ground National Monument is easily reached by public transportation. A number of subway stations are located within walking distance of the monument and visitor’s center: take the 1, 2, 3, J, Z, A, or C trains to their respective Chambers Street stations; the 4, 5, or 6 to the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station; the E to the World Trade Center station; the N or R trains to City Hall; or the 2 or 3 to Park Place. The memorial’s visitor center is located on the first floor of the Ted Weiss Federal Building at 290 Broadway. The memorial is located behind the building and is accessible from Duane Street. The African Burial Ground National Monument and Visitors’ Center is free.

NYC’s Pulaski Day Parade

This past weekend was the annual celebration of a long-lasting New York City tradition: the Pulaski Day Parade. Founded 80 years ago, the Pulaski Day Parade celebrates General Casimir Pulaski, an American Revolutionary War hero. After meeting Benjamin Franklin in Paris, the Polish general traveled to North America to fight with the Continental Army against the British. Eventually, after distinguishing himself in support of George Washington’s forces on more than one occasion, the Continental Congress gave Pulaski charge of the first American cavalry. Today, New York City’s Pulaski Day Parade celebrates both Pulaski’s contributions to American independence and Polish-American citizens in the New York City metropolitan area.


Unsurprisingly, then, the parade begins with this float featuring General Pulaski (or his look-alike).


This year, the parade’s theme was “Polish-American Youth, in Honor of World Youth Day, Krakow, Poland.” And there were plenty of children and teenagers (as well as adults) in the parade, including some dressed in traditional Polish clothing and Polish scouts.






Parade float celebrating World Youth Day


There were also a number of Polish and Polish-American veterans organizations in the parade.






And, like all parades, bystanders also saw numerous NYC police officers and fire fighters and marching bands.







A few final miscellaneous photos from this year’s Pulaski Day Parade:




Honoring Pulaski, who died on October 11, 1779 in the Battle of Savannah, the parade is held in early October each year. The parade marches its way up Fifth Avenue from 39th Street to 56th Street.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Although St. Patrick’s Cathedral is not one of the oldest churches in New York City, and certainly not nearly as old as the famous cathedrals in Europe, it is still an interesting example of neo-Gothic architecture. The original St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built in Lower Manhattan in the early nineteenth century, but in the 1850s the archbishop determined that the city should have a grander cathedral, one more in keeping with the growth of the Roman Catholic community in New York City. The cathedral’s architect was James Renwick, and it was constructed between 1858 and 1879. (The American Civil War greatly affected the cathedral’s financing and construction schedule.) Although the location chosen for this new cathedral was barely part of the city in the 1850s, today St. Patrick’s Cathedral is situated in one of the busiest areas of Manhattan, bordered by Fifth Avenue on the West and Madison Avenue on the East, 50th Street to the South and 51st to the North.


The Cathedral’s bronze front doors are large and imposing, with intricate details of religious figures.


At the top of the door are Jesus and the Apostles.


The door panels include the following people:

  1. Top left: Saint Joseph, Patron of the Church;
  2. Top right: St. Patrick, Patron of the Church (and the Cathedral’s namesake);
  3. Middle left: Father Isaac Jogues, a Catholic martyr and saint who was the first priest to come to Manhattan Island in the seventeenth century (when New York was still a Dutch colony and Manhattan was known as New Amsterdam);
  4. Middle right: Saint Francis X. Cabrini, founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and known for her ministry to Italian immigrants to the United States;
  5. Bottom left: Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, known as the Lily of the Mohawks, the first Native American woman to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church; and
  6. Bottom right: Mother Elizabeth Seton, founder of the Sisters of Charity and first native-born U.S. citizen to be canonized (and referred to on the door panel as the “Daughter of New York.”

Here are close-up views of a couple of those panels, the ones for St. Patrick (with a little bit of Saint Francis X. Cabrini) and Mother Elizabeth Seton.



Inside the Cathedral, there is much to see. The white marble is striking, and the numerous stained glass windows allow in a lot of light.








There’s an imposing organ, which according to the tour has 7,855 pipes! (Not all are visible in this photo, obviously!)


There are numerous smaller altars along the sides of the Cathedral, dedicated to various saints.





There is this very different statue of Mother Elizabeth Seton. I found it interesting how it didn’t really fit with the other altars, but its simplicity was striking.


Even if you are not Roman Catholic (as I am not), a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral is interesting. The Cathedral also has a Tour app for Apple and Android devices – there are versions for adults or children, as well as a Spanish-language version. As a warning though, there may be times were a funeral or other religious service is going on, and the Cathedral may be closed to visitors during those times, especially if prominent people are attending and security is a concern. For other services, visitors are still allowed to come in but are directed to the aisles along the edges. I personally found it a bit disconcerting when I realized that a small funeral service was being held, and here I had been snapping photos across the nave! I was not alone though, as there were probably more than a hundred other visitors there at the time, doing the same thing. The funeral service let out not long after I arrived, thankfully, so I had not gone very far before I realized what was happening.

If you wish to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral yourself, the closest subway stations are the Fifth Avenue/53rd Street station (E and M trains), and the 47-50th Streets/Rockefeller Center station (B, D, F, and M trains).

Circle of Dance at the National Museum of the American Indian

Every time I’m near Battery Park at the southern end of Manhattan I try to go to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Located in the former Alexander Hamilton U.S. Customs House, the museum is one of two Smithsonian museums located in New York City. (I also recommend visiting NMAI’s sister museum in Washington, DC – it’s one of my favorite Smithsonian museums.) NMAI hosts some great special programming (in fact, I wrote about one event here), but the museum also offers some great exhibitions. One of those exhibitions, Circle of Dance, illustrates Native Americans’ diverse cultural experiences by exploring the costumes, traditions, and history associated with various dance forms.

One of my favorite costumes in the exhibition is this one, Quechua Danza de Tizeras, or the Scissor Dance. According to the exhibition, the dance has roots in the Andean Mountains of Peru. I was fascinated to learn how, after the Spanish arrived, dancers were persecuted because of Roman Catholic beliefs that their gymnastic dance movements were enabled by the devil. Catholic priests attempted to ban the dance entirely but were unsuccessful, and instead the dance was incorporated into Christian religious observances in the region. Today, the dance is performed at Christmas and New Years, but it is also part of festivals where descendants of the Andean peoples celebrate their own traditions and heritage. I love the intricately embroidered clothing and hat, as well as the combination of colors in the costume.


I also loved this colorfully patterned outfit, titled Yakama Girl’s Fancy Shawl Dance. From my research, I learned that the Yakama Nation is now based in the state of Washington in the northwest United States. The exhibition explained the purpose of the Fancy Shawl Dance and other dances taught to Yakama children:

Yakama boys and girls are trained at a young age to keep the rhythm of the drumbeat … in order to nurture inside them the belief in Wáashat, the Yakama longhouse religion. Through dancing, the work of their bodies, children are taught to serve their elders, their families, and their people.

When I look at this costume, I can visualize the young Yakama girls whirling in time to the drumbeat, enjoying themselves while still honoring tradition.


The next costume was labeled Cubeo Óyne Dance. It is a mask that would be used by a dancer impersonating an animal spirit during a mourning ritual practiced by the Cubeo, who live in Brazil and Colombia. Like the first dance I described earlier, this one was also discouraged by Christian missionaries.


And this magnificent headdress from the Hopi Butterfly Dance costume also caught my eye. The geometric patterns and colors are interesting, but as you look closer you will see even more details, such as butterflies and cornstalks.


Although Circle of Dance is not a permanent exhibition, visitors still have plenty of time to see it. The exhibition is not scheduled to end until October 8, 2017. The exhibition is located within the special events space on the museum’s ground floor, however, and there may be limited access if a special event is taking place when you visit. In addition to the beautiful costumes featured here, there are a variety of other costumes whose stories give even more of a glimpse into varied Native American traditions and cultures.

Want to visit NMAI yourself? If traveling by subway, take the N or the R trains to Whitehall station, the 1 train to the South Ferry Station, or the 4 or 5 train to the Bowling Green station. If traveling from Staten Island, the museum is only a few short blocks from the Whitehall ferry terminal. NMAI is across the street from Battery Park, and I encourage you to visit the park either before or after your trip to the museum. Another added bonus: the National Museum of the American Indian is free!

NYC’s Historic Trinity Church


Trinity Church has a long history interwoven with that of New York City. Originally part of the Church of England (becoming Episcopalian after the American Revolution), Trinity received its charter from New York’s colonial governor in 1697. Over the next 300+ years, 3 churches would ultimately be built, and the parish flourished on its Wall Street site in the city’s south end. The first church building burned in the Great Fire of 1776. The second building had structural problems, leading to the collapse of its support beams in 1838. The current building, designed by architect Richard Uptown, was completed in 1846. Today, its neo-Gothic architecture makes a striking contrast to the surrounding skyscrapers.

Even before you enter the front doors to Trinity Church, you will notice intriguing details. I found this small brass plaque embedded in the ground, commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the site in 1976. The church recently included an interesting story about the Queen’s visit on its website, complete with video. According to the story, Trinity Church’s original charter required the church to pay a token rent of one peppercorn per year to the English crown. No payments had ever been made, and when Queen Elizabeth visited Trinity Church in 1976, the church rector presented her with 279 peppercorns (the church’s age at that point).


The church’s bronze exterior doors have intricately detailed panels. Some panels present scenes from the Bible or church history, while others illustrate early scenes from the city’s history.




The interior of Trinity Church is beautiful, with its dark wood, sparkling stained glass windows, and high, arched ceilings. There are so many interesting details to explore.






There is also a small chapel, All Saint’s Chapel, and numerous memorials to deceased parishioners.




Exploring the cemetery surrounding the church, visitors get a real sense of Trinity Church’s connections to both New York City and United States history. You’ll find a number of prominent people buried in the cemetery – it’s fun to explore, looking for names you recognize. The most famous people’s graves have small signs next to them, providing more information. (I took some of these photos last winter when there was a little snow still on the ground, as you can see!)


This first monument is to Captain James Lawrence, a naval hero from the War of 1812, who, as he was dying during battle supposedly ordered his men, “Don’t give up the ship!” (The New York Historical Society’s website has an interesting account of the naval battle, available here.) Like many of the graves of this time period, this one includes his wife, Julia Montaudevert Lawrence. I was surprised to read that his second-in-command, Lieutenant August C. Ludlow, was also buried in the grave.


I liked the detail of Captain Lawrence’s ship, found on the side of the monument.


Another famous parishioner buried in the cemetery is Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States (and currently popular because of the successful Broadway show, Hamilton).


Close by is this monument to Robert Fulton, credited with building the first commercially successful steamboat in the United States in 1807. The steamboat traveled the Hudson River between New York City and Albany, New York.


This ornate monument, designed by Thomas Nash in 1914, is known as the Astor Cross. According to the sign next to the monument, “[t]his ornate cross illustrates the genealogy of Christ according to St. Luke.” It was donated to the church in memory of Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor.


Here’s the carving of Noah near the monument’s base.


There are a number of other interesting monuments throughout the cemetery (you can discover them yourself if you visit), but I liked this one in particular. According to the informational sign, its the 1852 Soldiers’ Monument, designed by Frank Wills. The monument was dedicated to American soldiers who lost their lives while held as prisoners of war in the city during the American Revolution. It is believed that the soldiers were buried somewhere on the property.


Because the parish is more than 300 years old, the gravestones in this cemetery are very old and worn. (Trinity Church ran out of space in the cemetery in the 19th century and has two other cemeteries in the city.) I enjoyed walking around and reading the more legible gravestones.


If you are interested in visiting Trinity Church, you can easily get to it by subway. The church is located at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street. Take the R or the 1 train to Rector Street, the 2, 3, 4, or 5 train to Wall Street, or the J or Z train to Broad Street.

If you visit Trinity Church, I recommend also visiting St. Paul’s Chapel, which is only a short walk away. I previously wrote about St. Paul’s Chapel, which is part of the Trinity Church parish, here.

Federal Hall National Memorial


Many visitors to New York City do not know that the city was the first capitol of the United States. New York City’s City Hall was located at 26 Wall Street in the 1700s, and the building served as the host for a number of important events during and after the American Revolution, including the Stamp Act Congress, the passage of the Northwest Ordinance, the drafting of the Bill of Rights for the U.S. Constitution, and George Washington’s inauguration as the first president of the United States. The city hall operated as the seat of the federal government until the capitol was briefly moved to Philadelphia in 1790, and then city offices moved back into the building.

That building no longer exists, but visitors can now tour Federal Hall National Memorial, which is located on the same site. The current building was built in 1842 and operated as a customs house for a number of years before becoming a depository for the U.S. Sub-Treasury (the Sub-Treasury system was replaced by the Federal Reserve System in 1920). Today, Federal Hall is a museum, free to visitors.

Federal hall has beautiful architectural details inside and out. Here are a couple of perspectives of the main hall, with its imposing columns and domed ceiling.



Although the original building is gone, you can still view the stone that George Washington was standing on when he took the oath of office as president for the first time.


There is also this replica of the desk that George Washington used as president when the national capitol was located on the site. I learned that the original desk is now located at the current City Hall building, in the Governor’s Room.


Federal Hall contains multiple permanent exhibits that address the city and nation’s early history and the history of the current building. There is also a temporary exhibit that starts in the main hall and continues to the basement level. The current temporary exhibit celebrates the diverse cultural, social, and political history of New York City’s neighborhood of Harlem. If you wish to see this excellent exhibit, you should visit Federal Hall before the exhibit closes on April 15, 2016.

Federal Hall’s location means that visitors can also see the New York Stock Exchange building. Members of the general public cannot tour the inside of the Stock Exchange, but you can still get a great picture of the outside of the building.


How can you get to Federal Hall National Memorial? The museum is located in lower Manhattan near numerous other tourist attractions. There are many subway stations within walking distance, but here are the closest ones. You can take the 2, 3, 4, or 5 trains to Wall Street, the J or Z trains to the Broad Street station, the 1 or R trains to Rector Street, or the A or C trains to Fulton Street.

Jacob Riis Exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York


I’ve been fascinated with the photography of Jacob A. Riis since I was first introduced to it as a college student. When I heard that the Museum of the City of New York was hosting an exhibition of his photographs, papers, and other items, I had to visit immediately. I’ve since been back several times, and each time I discover something different than what I’ve noticed before.

Riis was a journalist, photographer, and social reformer who lived and worked in New York City in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His black and white photography was published in contemporary newspapers and magazines, as well as in best-selling books such as How the Other Half Lives (1890). Through his photography, writing, and public speaking, Riis brought public attention to the plight of New York City’s urban poor. A visit to the exhibition is a must for those who would like to learn more about the history of the city, including immigrants and others who lived in poverty at the turn of the twentieth century. It’s also a draw for fans of vintage photography, as the exhibition contains incredible photographs.

Here are a few examples of the photographs that you will see in the exhibition. (All of Riis’s original photographs are protected by glass, of course, making it difficult to photograph the exhibit, but they will still give you a glimpse of the exhibition’s power.) This first one is titled “Five Cents a Spot,” 1889-1890. As the exhibition explains, Riis took this photograph during the raid of an illegal lodging house, where workers could pay five cents a night to sleep on the floor.


This second one, titled “Little Susie,” 1892, documented the life of a working child. Susie completed piecework at home to help support her family. (In piecework, a worker is paid a very small amount for each completed item rather than being paid an hourly wage.) Susie and her family lived in a tenement building called Gotham Court, which lacked plumbing, ventilation, or natural light.


This final photograph is titled “Italian Mother and Her Baby in Jersey Street,” 1888-1889. This single windowless room was the family’s entire apartment, and all of their possessions are visible as well.


One of the things I really enjoyed was this map of Manhattan that was placed in the middle of the exhibition. The map shows where some of the photographs had been taken, allowing the visitor to compare conditions during Riis’s time with what those areas of the city look like today.


The final part of the exhibition was also really interesting. One thing that Riis did to focus attention on the conditions of people living in poverty was public speaking engagements, where he showed lantern slide versions of his photographs. You can experience what it was like to attend one of those presentations by watching a narrated lantern slide show of the photographs yourself. I found the overall experience powerful and moving. This particular slide shows some of the nefarious “Dock Rats,” who were known for their illegal activity, including violent robberies.


The exhibition ends on March 20, 2016, so there is only about a month to see it here in New York City before it’s over. After the exhibition leaves the Museum of the City of New York, it will be traveling to Washington, DC, and Denmark, so keep your eyes open for it if you live in or will be traveling to those locations. (Riis was an immigrant from Denmark, explaining why his work will be exhibited there.)

How can you get to the Museum of the City of New York by public transportation? To travel by subway, take the 6 train to the 103rd Street Station. You can also get there by bus – just take the M1, M3, or M4 to Madison Avenue and 104th Street, and then walk one block west to Fifth Avenue. The museum is across Fifth Avenue from the northern end of Central Park, so if you have the time after your visit to the museum, take the opportunity to explore the park as well.

Garifuna Concert at the National Museum of the American Indian


Most people associate Smithsonian museums with Washington, D.C., but New York City is actually home to two Smithsonian museums: the National Museum of the American Indian (there is also one in Washington, D.C.), and Cooper Hewitt, the Smithsonian’s design museum. Today’s post is going to focus on the National Museum of the American Indian, or NMAI.

Every time I go to NMAI, I’m reminded why I really love this museum. There are always great exhibitions, but the museum also regularly offers special events in the gallery space on the first floor. On my last visit, I walked in just in time to attend a free concert. (Both the museum and almost all events are free, an added bonus!) In celebration of African-American history month, the museum invited James Lovell, Garifuna musician and cultural activist, to perform. Mr. Lovell is also a resident of New York City, making this event a perfect fit for this blog on many levels.


Mr. Lovell and his friends introduced the audience to Garifuna music, language, and culture in an exciting and entertaining way. As I learned during the concert and Question & Answer session, the Garifuna people originally lived on the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean, but they were banished to modern-day Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Belize in the 1790s. The Garifuna people are a combination of African and indigenous Caribbean descent. New York City has many Garifuna residents, and Mr. Lovell uses his music to increase understanding of Garifuna culture and social issues, as well as preserving the Garifuna language.


The ensemble included drummers and other musicians, as well as traditional dancers. Mr. Lovell had also invited Lucy Blanco, a jazz singer of Garifuna descent, to participate. The music was beautiful. At times the stories told by the music were haunting, as they documented the challenges the Garifuna have faced over time; other songs were joyous and welcoming. During most songs, the singers sang both the Garifuna version and then an English translation so that audience members could fully engage with the performances and their messages.


But the audience did not sit passively throughout the performance. Mr. Lovell taught us a song in Garifuna, and at one point we were invited to get up and dance with the traditional dancers. It was impossible not to tap our feet and clap along with the music throughout the concert.



If you have the opportunity to visit the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City, be sure to check the museum’s event calendar to see what special events might be offered during your visit. And I definitely recommend that you attend one of James Lovell’s concerts if you have the opportunity – I know I will be looking for both his and Lucy Blanco’s concerts in the future!


How do you get to NMAI? If traveling by subway, take the N or the R trains to Whitehall station, the 1 train to the South Ferry Station, or the 4 or 5 train to the Bowling Green station. If traveling from Staten Island, the museum is only a few short blocks from the ferry terminal. NMAI is across the street from Battery Park, and I encourage you to visit the park either before or after your trip to the museum. (Battery Park is also where you can catch the ferry that goes to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.)

New York Transit Museum

I make no secret of my love of New York City’s public transportation system, which is why I recently had to visit the New York Transit Museum. Part of what makes the museum such a fun place to visit is its location – it’s in a retired subway station in downtown Brooklyn. Here’s the museum entrance. Doesn’t it look promising already?


Once you go below ground, you pay for admission at a vintage station master’s booth before entering the first exhibit. Most of the museum’s exhibits are on the mezzanine level of the historic station. The first exhibit was a fascinating one: “Steel, Stone, and Backbone: Building New York’s Subways, 1900-1925.” I gained a new appreciation for the hard work and sacrifices that went into creating the New York City subway system, as well as the technological challenges and risk to human life. Every time I go through one of the tunnels under the East River now, I remember the exhibit’s explanation of the compressed air chambers used during the construction process.


The exhibit also does a good job of exploring the diverse people who contributed to the subway system’s construction – men and women, immigrants and African Americans among them.

There is also a new exhibit called “Bringing Back the City,” which explores how the transit system has been affected by and responded to times of crisis. There are artifacts related to the September 11 attacks;  the 2003 power blackout in the Northeastern United States, which temporarily shut down the subway system and left riders stranded; Hurricane Irene is 2011; and Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. Among the exhibit artifacts, I was struck by this flood bench example. I’ve seen flood benches at numerous locations near the subways, but never knew their purpose or origins. The benches, both practical and sculptural, let air travel into subway vents but prevent rainwater from flooding the subway system.


There are many interactive exhibits for children (and interesting for adults as well). Here are examples of turnstiles (still working) from every period in the subway system’s history.


Visitors can step into a station master’s booth, pretending to help subway riders.


In the exhibit, “On the Streets: New York’s Trolleys and Buses,” visitors can sit in the driver’s seat and pretend to drive models of city buses.


Once you finish the exhibits located on the mezzanine level, head down the stairs to the track level. Although the station is no longer active, the tracks are still there – and full of vintage train cars. (The MTA has a number of these vintage cars, which are sometimes used for special events. I wrote previously about the vintage train rides offered each December before Christmas.) If you’re a fan of vintage trains or simply someone who likes public transportation like me, you will enjoy seeing the train cars. Both car exteriors and interiors are very different from the subway cars in use today, and the vintage advertising is fun to read as well. The museum also offers a highlights tour on the weekends, which includes the subway cars. You will notice one of those gallery talks in progress in the photos below.





What’s the best way to get to the New York Transit Museum? By subway, of course! Take the 2, 3, 4, or 5 trains to Borough Hall; the R to Court Street; the A, F, and R to Jay Street-MetroTech (and the C as well, during weekday rush hours only); or the A or G to Hoyt Street-Schermerhorn Street.