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A Subway Substation — Then and Now

Substation 235
Substation 235 at Greenwich Avenue and Horatio Street in 1933. Image via NYPL.

The familiar view above, taken in 1933, looks north on Greenwich Avenue (at Horatio Street) toward 14th Street and features the striking art deco Substation 235 of the New York City Transit Authority.

Constructed in 1932 for the new Independent Subway System’s (IND) 8th Avenue line which was built from 1932 to 1940, the electrical substation converted high voltage alternating current to lower voltage direct current for use in the transit system.  It is clad in brick and limestone and features attractive geometric patterns throughout and on the large aluminum loading bay doors.

Substation 235
Greenwich Avenue and Horatio Street today.

Just within the northern bounds of the Greenwich Village Historic District, the view from today shows that much about the area has not changed physically. Although the substation building is still used for its original purpose, many of the buildings in the view, including the bank buildings at 14th Street and the massive, block-long Port Authority Building (at 8th avenue and 15th Street) have been adaptively reused. The most conspicuous change (in addition to the automobiles) is the presence of a new residential development directly north of substation. Completed in 2009, the controversial 11-story, undulating glass tower was built on a former parking lot at 122 Greenwich Avenue.

4 responses to “A Subway Substation — Then and Now

  1. I really enjoy your Then & Now posts! Great job getting the angle of the photo just right, even though the cars in the “then” photo make it all look so much classier. 🙂 I also love that orange-red building to the right of the substation! Was/is it a residence?

    Keep up the great work!!

    1. Thanks Jenny — the building at 251 W. 13th St. to the right of the substation has an interesting history of its own. It was originally constructed in 1887 as the Jackson Square branch library (for the precursor of the current NYPL system — see photos) in the style of a 17th-century Dutch guild hall. By the 1960s the library was closed and the building was sold to an eccentric private owner who commissioned the noted modern architect Paul Rudolph to do a dramatic interior renovation. It’s since been renovated again and remains a private residence. The NY Times has a great article about the past and more recent history of the library building here (an older version with photos here).

  2. Incredible! Thanks so much for your thoroughness. With those old photos, this could be a blog post all its own!

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