Sunday, January 23, 2011

Riding the El - 9 - Ninth Avenue


The Ninth Avenue El, lower Manhattan, May 1940.

134-1. Greenwich St looking south from Cortlandt St station.

Rector St was the last station downtown that was exclusively for the Ninth Ave El, and some trains ended there. The main line widened to four tracks north and south of the station to hold trains between runs. The tower controlling the switches was a familiar sight above the tracks.

Rector St station on the Sixth Ave El (see Riding the El - 1) was also a terminal for some trains of that line. One block south, at Morris St, the Sixth Ave El merged into the Ninth for the final run to Battery Place station and South Ferry station, both of which we will see this time.

138-6. Rector St station.

This was a very dark negative, a little beyond the camera's ability with (probably) a fixed exposure.

South of Rector St, our photographer gave some attention to the remains of the Morris St junction. As I mentioned in Riding the El -2, the Sixth Ave El was at a higher elevation, so at Morris St the Sixth Ave rails merely came alongside Ninth, and they ran side by side for a block before the actual junction at Battery Place. If you know how narrow Greenwich St is, you'll appreciate that a structure four tracks wide spanned the whole street almost building to building.

138-1. Trinity Place at Morris St, looking south at Greenwich St.

To the left of the train is the stub of the Sixth Ave El. The block behind it is being cleared to build the entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

This is another amazing photograph, so let's check a few details before we go on.

138-1 detail.

Walt Disney's doppelganger, the well-kept but old car (even in 1940) in front of the shiny brass plaque of the Cunard White Star building, and some detail on the Sixth Ave stub : what more could you ask? A provisions truck with the same fancy gold lettering you can see today on Boar's Head trucks?

138-1 detail.

A man on a mission walks uptown as extras populate the well-dressed movie set. Dine in comfort at the Cozy Corner Eat Shoppe for the 25 cent or 35 cent special, or get a passport photo, or just pick up fruit from the stand.

138-1 detail.

Now we can geek out again on the elevated line itself. Uptown train to 155th St. Right under it is an 1880 column (from the rebuild of the original Greenwich St El) with extensions on top to raise the track level a little higher. I don't know the reason for that. Joining the Sixth Ave El to the Ninth was planned before the 1880 rebuild.

133-4. Greenwich St looking south at Morris St.

View from the rear of a train, showing the stub of the Sixth Ave El to the left of the Ninth Ave tracks. In the distance is Battery Place station and the tower controlling the junction.

The rails on the stub have not yet been lifted, the same situation we saw on the 53rd St stub in Riding the El - 7.

Above, a similar view seen in 1888 from a building window. That's the same block of buildings. From a collection of photographs in The First Elevated Railroads in Manhattan and the Bronx of the City of New York by William Fullerton Reeves, 1936.

81-8. Battery Place station, looking uptown into Greenwich St.

This is a photo from 1938 that was in Riding the El - 2. At that time the row of buildings on the west side of Greenwich St was intact. The switches here would have been gone in 1940.

138-2. Battery Place looking west from Broadway.

138-2 detail.

Under the el, we see Pier A and a ship that looks like some kind of excursion boat. The Miller Elevated Highway was called the West Side Highway from the beginning.

138-2 details.

Battery Place station was added to the existing structure in 1883. The station house was described as Queen Anne style, a usually very elaborate "gothic" style of residential architecture. Panels on the stairway and platform included jagged sunburst circles.

133-3. Battery Place station looking south.

The sunburst panels show the original length of the station over streets. The additional section with pipe railings was added a little later after lobbyists had taken care of the Parks Department.

Near the center of the picture, there appears to be a movable gap filler along the platform, because of the curve. This is the only one I know of on the elevated lines. There are gap fillers for the same purpose at 14th St (Lexington, 4 5 6) and Times Square (shuttle, S) and until recently at South Ferry (Seventh Ave, 1).

139-7. Elevated railway in Battery Park, looking south.

The elevated railway ran over Battery Park from Battery Place to South Ferry, close to State St. Construction over park land was controversial from the beginning, and while the courts finally permitted it under the charter of the first elevated railway, no further elevated railway franchises ever allowed routes over park land. As built in 1877, this section had three tracks for the narrow trains of the original Greenwich St El. As rebuilt in 1880, it was a slightly wide structure for two tracks.

It's hard to believe the wooded view above is in lower Manhattan, but you can see the South Ferry terminal in the distance, to the right of the control tower.

138-4. South Ferry station looking southeast.

South Ferry was a four-track terminal opened in 1879. Originally the west pair of tracks was for the Ninth Ave El and the east pair for the Third Ave El. Each pair of tracks had an island platform between them.

The gratings in the foreground show the location of the subway South Ferry station.

A similar view from about 1880. Albumen print mounted on cabinet card.

The two stairways seen on the left, the station house, and the platform canopies were all almost unchanged 60 years later. The open walkway next to the station house had been enclosed.

The station was named for the ferry to Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, called the South Ferry. Its fancy wooden house can be partially seen under the el to the left of the stairway. The ferry house at far right is the Staten Island Ferry to Stapleton and Tompkinsville. The smaller middle building under the elevated station house advertises boats to the north shore of Staten Island and to Manhattan Beach (the east end of Coney Island). The sign above the station house reads New York Elevated Railroad, original owner of the Ninth and Third Ave Els, which was consolidated after 1880 into the Manhattan Railway.

138-5. South Ferry station looking northeast.

There was barely enough length for a station here. The platforms had to curve left and right at the ends. The near platform is of course for the Ninth Ave El, which curves into Battery Park close to State St.

138-4 detail.

The stairway and the kiosk gave access to the inner loop track subway platform. It was open only Monday to Friday daytime, and it was closed at the time this picture was taken. The white sign on the left begins "Interborough Rapid Transit Co / Lexington 4th Ave Subway / East Side Line" and the rest of it probably explains what times trains use this platform. There's another big white sign to the left of the el stairway.

138-5 detail.

Economically hidden under the el stairway is an entrance to the main subway platform on the outer loop track, which had "Interborough Subway / West Side Line" service at all times and East Side service nights and weekends.

The woodwork posts and canopies of the el stairway are all original. The hand-lettered sign "to Up Town Trains" with the pointing hand also looks very old.

138-5 detail.

The top of the same stairway. The woodwork trim on the landing (lower left) matches the base landing, but the top, where the two stairways join, is in a different style. The roof appears to be canvas, the same material used to roof the wooden elevated rail cars.

138-5 detail.

Would you eat at the Bean Pot Cafe (left) or the Coastal Cafeteria? The bus says "Welcome to New York", like the one in a picture at 155th St. This is Whitehall St. Ferry off frame on the right.

138-4 detail.

The boy on the left posed for the classic "Slow Children" traffic sign!

The brick building behind them was for two federal government facilities, the United States Barge Office and Bureau of Immigration. For the latter office, there was a ferry behind the building to Ellis Island.

That's the end of Manhattan. We can't go any farther downtown by land. But we can go up the east side. The Second Avenue El was going to close too.


  1. I've been reading some old New York City photography books lately as well as enjoying your blog. Maybe you have a book in here too...

  2. from Jeff (Martha's husband, of the Polo Grounds lights): drool, drool, drool

  3. The Battery Place station was built on a serpentine structure. See "".
    So, even the shorter El cars had to be positioned to get the Gate car platforms and the MUDC door vestibules within the station platform barriers. Even with those barriers, platform extenders were needed to close the gap between platform and the car door edge.
    See our Battery album at "" for more examples of the platform extenders and different views of the Battery Place Station.

  4. 134-1 is looking South from the Cortlandt St Station. Thanks for reminding me that I have a South Ferry album to upload.

  5. I fixed the comment on 134-1. Thanks!

  6. Love these pictures!