For the thousands of commuters who pass through the 14th Street / Union Square subway station each day, it can be easy to overlook the remains of the original IRT Union Square local station scattered throughout the bustling complex. Observant travelers, however, during a lull in the daily rush, might just notice a collection of red frames bordering bits of incongruous tiling and pieces of masonry in varying states of decay.
The most prominent remnants of the original IRT 14th St-Union Square station local platform are the six sections of wall on the station’s mezzanine level. When opened the station had four platforms: two side platforms for local trains (portions of the platform can still be seen extending from the tile walls) and two island platforms for use by local and express trains. Dating back to 1904, these pieces are defined by their terracotta eagles clutching shields bearing the number 14, and were once part of one of New York City’s original 28 subway stations. Other features, such as columns, mosaics, bolts, conduits, and even telephone wire, are far more subtle and would be virtually invisible if not for the bright red frames that surround them.
The relics were placed and frames installed in 1998 by artist Mary Miss, who worked with architect Lee Harris during station renovations to rescue the artifacts from obscurity. Prior to their rediscovery during construction, many of these original elements, including the memorable eagles, were presumed lost, according to the MTA.