Hope everyone had a good Labor Day last week - I hadn't intended to, but I ended up taking the week off from blogging (obviously) since my parents came into town to visit. So I spent most of last week being a tourist with them - it was the only way I could justify taking the above photo, since usually I'm trying my hardest to blend in with the natives and whipping out your camera to take a picture in Times Square isn't Native New York behavior.
But, as I did with Wondrous Strange, I wanted to make this a bit of an illustrated post since today's book, Secret Subway, is all about the first subway built in New York City, well before the system that I ride every day was even imagined.
Sandler has researched all sorts of aspects of life in New York in the mid-to-late 1800s to give an in depth look at what life in the city that never sleeps was like, from crowded/dangerous/dirty streets to the corrupt politicians that had their fingers in all parts of city life. This gives us a great view of the environment Alfred Beach was working in to create his original idea for the subway, a luxurious ride underneath the hubbub of the surface streets.
If only that dream had continued to today!
Though that's not to say all of our platforms are miserable
I was utterly enthralled by this book - it's such a fantastic story, even for those who aren't from the city. Beach's story is one that captures the imagination from the moment one first hears of it: how did a person build a subway in secret in one of the biggest cities in the world?
Apparently, Beach's subway is still beneath the streets - it was discovered when the current subway system was being expanded. I would love it if the MTA could get some of it out and put it on display in our transit museum. Then again, since we just had the ceiling collapse in a station built in 1903, I wonder if it really has survived?
Thoughts on the current state of NYC transit aside, Secret Subway is a fascinating look at forgotten New York history, a must read for history fans (for the look at transportation and politics in 19th century New York), transit buffs, and all of those who <3 NY.