Alfred Beach built this pneumatic tunnel to show the possibility of a subway in New York. It seems to have worked out pretty well for everyone.
This particular tunnel was opened February 1870 and runs along Broadway between Warren and Murray street, and although this block-long tunnel was a tourist success, selling 400,000 rides in a year, the stock market crash and financial and political woes shut down the project in 1873. After the project was shut down the entrance to the tunnel was sealed. The station itself was located in the basement of the Rogers Peet Building and was used for various purposes. The entire building was destroyed in a fire in 1898. By that time the tunnel was pretty much forgotten.
In 1912 while excavating for the new Brooklyn Rapid Transit system’s new Broadway line (today’s R and W trains) workmen broke through into the sealed tunnel and discovered Beach’s work. Even the pneumatic rail car was still on the tracks. Remnants of that tunnel were incorporated as part of the new BRT tunnel although there is no way to distinguish the Beach tunnel from the BRT construction. Although much has been written about a plaque dedicated to Beach and his efforts placed in the City Hall Station, there is no evidence that a plaque was actually made nor installed in the station.
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Manhattan may have name-brand recognition and Brooklyn a certain cache, but Queens is the city’s largest and most diverse borough. Join us, May 17–20, to dig into Queens’ rich neighborhood life.