Thursday, March 3, 2011

From the Archives: Tunnels Under Bryant Park, Part 2

In this post, BPC's archivist, Anne Kumer, shares some history. This is a follow-up post to Tunnels Under Bryant park, Part 1, which recalled the beginnings of the underground train system, including the first IRT line, and the 6th Avenue line. This post also appears on NYC Circa, a history blog about New York City and its public spaces.

During its long tenure as a public park -- 165 years, if you go all the way back to 1846, when the City ordered construction of a public park, then called Reservoir Square, next to the Croton Reservoir -- Bryant Park has seen a lot of construction. 

In addition to the erection of a temporary structure now and then, usually for a public event or activity, such as the
Crystal Palace in 1853, and Federal Hall in 1932, and more recently, the Citi Pond at Bryant Park, there have also been two large-scale reconstructive efforts: one in 1934 under the guidance of Robert Moses, which transformed the park from a Victorian to a French Classical design, and another in 1988, headed by Bryant Park Corporation, which in addition to giving the park a much needed facelift, included the installation of  NYPL stacks under the lawn. 

Photo: NYC Transit Museum
The photo above, taken in 1924, shows a pedestrian view of 42nd street, on the north side of the park, during construction of the Flushing Line, now, the 7 train. Service began from Grand Central Terminal to Vernon-Jackson in Queens, on June 13, 1915. Over the next 13 years, the line extended to Flushing, Queens, and to Times Square. You can read more about it here, and of course, check out the more specific up-to-date 7 train line information here.

Running along 42nd Street, building the line turned much of the park into a construction site for about five years. 
Photo: BPC Photo Collection

Years later, while writing about the 1934 renovation of the park in the December 1, 1934 issue of the New Yorker, Lewis Mumford would recall " . . .those long dreary years, when it looked as if someone had struck oil there." Construction crews arrived in the park on June 2, 1922, and didn't leave until July 5, 1927. 

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