By Brian J. Pape, AIA
After having visited the two New York Transit Museum galleries of rotating exhibits and retail stores in Manhattan, where the Grand Central Terminal store has free admission, as does the store at 2 Broadway at Bowling Green, I was excited to hear about a new vintage photography exhibit. But Streetscapes & Subways: Photographs by Pierre P. and Granville W. Pullis is not in Manhattan, and it’s not free.
Housed underground in an authentically restored 1936 subway station at 99 Schermerhorn Street in downtown Brooklyn, this New York Transit Museum displays vintage subway and elevated cars dating back to 1907, when a ride cost five cents. The Pullis brothers were employed by the MTA for more than 30 years, and about 100,000 of their glass negatives from before 1925 have survived, many to be shown here.
These are the scenes of old New York, when communities were being drastically transformed, or, as lines were extended outward, created for commuters into the big city. The teeming hustle of everyday life of the thriving city is frozen in photographic frames, a time when horses pulled trolley cars and delivery carts, when the street paving of Belgian blocks was laid over a foundation of dirt and rocks.
But the streetscapes, like now, consist of rows of townhouses, tenements, business storefronts, office buildings, community centers and churches.
Founded in 1976, the New York Transit Museum is dedicated to telling and preserving the stories of mass transportation—extraordinary engineering feats, workers who labored in the tunnels over 100 years ago. It is a self-supporting non-profit division of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Knowing the problems of today’s MTA, with delays, derailments, failing elevators and soaked ceilings since it first began operating on October 27, 1904, we might forgive them for charging admission; some tours require annual membership to buy a ticket.
Seniors 62+ are half-priced at $5, or free for seniors on Wednesdays.