20 photos of the oldest subway stations in the US that show just how much times have changed

Chicago's first subway trip in 1943.

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Chicago’s first subway trip in 1943.
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Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

No matter how crowded, sweaty, dirty, or delayed the subway may be, it’s something most city-goers could not function without.

Boston’s subway system opened in 1897, making it the first in the US and North America. New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, later followed suit.

With the nation’s first subway systems came accompanying stations – some of which had unique design details, like New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and City Hall stations. Keep reading to see what some of the oldest subway stations in the US looked like when they first opened and how they compare to the stations we know today.


In 1897, Boston opened the first subway system in North America, known as the Tremont Street subway.

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Park Street subway station entrances, circa 1906.
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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Boston’s Tremont Street Subway was the first subway tunnel in North America in 1897, according to the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA). The Tremont Street Subway line ran from an entrance at the Boston Public Garden and Haymarket Square, according to the City of Boston.


Park Street is one of Boston’s original subway stations.

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Park Street station in Boston, circa 1961.
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Ollie Noonan, Jr./The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Following Park Street station’s opening in 1897, a number of other stations opened in 1898, including Scollay station and Adams Square station. Scollay was renamed Government Center station in 1963 and is still in operation, according to the Boston Globe. Adams Square station closed around 1963, according to Boston Magazine.

Today, locals know Boston’s subway as the “T.”


Today, Park Street station is still going strong.

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Park Street station in 2015.
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Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Park Street station was the fourth-busiest subway stop in Boston in 2015, according to Boston Magazine.


New York City’s subway system opened in 1904, making it the second-oldest in the country. City Hall subway station was among the first, and most beautiful, to open.

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City Hall subway station, circa 1906.
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Library of Congress

New York City’s subway system opened in 1904. Called the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT), the subway traveled about nine miles and passed through 28 stations, including City Hall station.

According to the MTA, there was an attempt to have a functional subway system in New York City even before the IRT opened. From 1870 until 1873, Alfred E. Beach operated a makeshift subway system by propelling a train through an underground tunnel in Lower Manhattan using air from a giant fan.


Subway service is no longer provided to the City Hall stop, but the breathtaking station is accessible via a special tour.

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The now-abandoned subway station.
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Felix Lipov/Shutterstock

City Hall station is known for its intricate tile designs, skylights, and archways.

Though the station is no longer in operation, subway passengers can take the downtown 6 train to the end of the line, which terminates at City Hall station. Members of the New York Transit Museum can also purchase tickets for an exclusive tour of the historical station.


New York City’s 42nd Street-Times Square subway station also opened in 1904.

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Times Square Station, circa 1957.
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Walter Kelleher/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The original IRT subway line ran from City Hall in lower Manhattan to Grand Central Terminal, then west to Times Square, according to the History Channel.

Other subway stations that opened in 1904 include Worth Street station and East 18th Street station, which are no longer in service, according to the Museum of the City of New York. The 145th Street station was also part of the original line, according to the Tenement Museum.


Today, there’s no time to stop and read the paper at 42nd Street-Times Square station, as it’s among the most bustling subway hubs in New York City.

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42 Street-Times Square subway station in 2017.
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Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In fact, the MTA reported that in 2016, 42 Street-Times Square was the busiest station in the city, with an annual ridership of more than 64 million people.


New York City’s Canal Street station was also one of the original 28 stations that opened in 1904 …

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Canal Street station, circa 1940s.
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Arthur Fellig/International Center of Photography/Getty Images

Today, multiple subway lines stop at Canal Street, which has three stations.


… along with New York City’s 14th Street-Union Square station, which was another one of the city’s first subway stops.

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A photograph showing construction of the Union Square subway station.
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Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

The 14th-Street Union Square station was part of the city’s first subway line.


The station is now another busy subway hub in Manhattan, but many of its details remain from 1904, like the ornate “14” tile décor.

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The 14th Street-Union Square station in 2016.
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Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The station has wall decorations that date back to 1904, including the eagles made out of terracotta that hold the “14” shield, according to Atlas Obscura.


Philadelphia is home to the third-oldest subway system in the US, which opened between 1905 and 1907. City Hall station was one of its first underground stations.

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City Hall station in Philadelphia.
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Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

The Market Street Subway was Philadelphia’s first rapid transit system with underground and elevated sections, according to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). SEPTA reports that by 1905, some parts of the Market Street Subway were open for use, and Philadelphia Magazine states that the entire line opened in 1907.

Following the opening of the Market Street Subway line, Philadelphia’s Broad Street line opened in 1928, connecting City Hall station and Olney Avenue.


Back in New York City, Grand Central Terminal had its official opening in 1913.

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Light streams into Grand Central Terminal.
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Jerry Cooke/Corbis via Getty Images

New York City’s iconic Grand Central Station (officially named Grand Central Terminal) is arguably one of the most well-known subway stations in America.

Originally, the station was used in the late-19th century as part of the railroad system, but it proved to be insufficient for the rapid growth of the transit system, so the station was torn down, and after 10 years of construction, it opened as Grand Central terminal.


Grand Central Terminal remains one of the most breathtaking — and bustling — transit stations in the nation.

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Grand Central Terminal.
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REUTERS/Eric Thayer

A 2016 report from the MTA listed Grand Central Terminal as its second-busiest subway station in New York City.


Chicago is known for its iconic “L” elevated train line, but the city’s first underground subway didn’t open until 1943.

Chicago's first subway trip in 1943.

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Chicago’s first subway trip in October 1943.
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Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

Chicago’s first elevated, or “L” train, opened in 1892. It wasn’t until 1943 that the city opened its first underground line, the State Street Subway, according to the Chicago Architecture Center.


The Windy City’s first underground line was called the State Street Subway, with State Street station becoming one of the first stops to open.

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An entrance to State Street station in Chicago.
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Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

State Street station (now called Chicago station) was one of the original stops that opened in 1943. The subway also passed under Clybourn and Division streets, according to the Chicago Historical Society.


Chicago’s underground stations were designed in the Art Moderne style, which has off-white colors, whimsical tile designs, and simplified architecture.

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A Chicago subway station, circa 1944.
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Hedrich Blessing Collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Chicago’s original subway stations are an example of Art Moderne style, an aesthetic that developed from Art Deco. Many of the stations on the Red Line still feature the original colorful tile designs, off-white colors and simplified shapes, according to Curbed Chicago.


State Street station is now known as Chicago station, and it’s still in operation today as part of the city’s Red Line subway.

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Chicago subway station, formerly known as State Street station.
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Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Today, the CTA, Chicago Transit Authority, is the country’s second largest public transit system after New York City’s MTA.


San Francisco’s subway system opened for service in 1972.

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A BART train, circa 1970s.
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Archive Photos/Getty Images

San Francisco’s first subway line spanned from Fremont to MacArthur stations, according to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). The original stations that opened in 1972 were Oakland City Center station, MacArthur station, Lake Merritt station, and San Leandro station, according to the San Francisco Gate.


In 1976, Washington, DC, opened its subway system, the Metrorail. Five stations opened on its Red Line.

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A DC Metro station.
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Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

DC’s Metro opened in 1976. There were five original stations on the Red Line between Rhode Island Avenue and Farragut North, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).


The Washington, DC, Metro stations are known for their unique, space shuttle-esque architecture.

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Farragut North station.
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Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Known for their unique concrete-paneled ceilings and hexagon-shaped tiled floors, the Metro stations were designed by architect Harry Weese in the 1960s. Weese even created a design kit that allowed stations built after his death in 1998 to have the same design features, according to Architect Magazine, the official magazine of the American Institute of Architects.