The charm of the 116th Street station house speaks only through a few black and white photographs and old painted postcards, and probably only to me. Many will never know that the worn benches and humdrum plantings signal the gradual loss of a historical era.
One of the stops on the original New York City subway system, the only access until 1967 to the Columbia University Station at 116th St. was through the ornate kiosk similar to the one at 72nd St. That year, Columbia’s own student body called for the removal of the station house 50 years ago. In 1967, Columbia’s Student Council successfully petitioned the Mayor and the Board of Estimate to replace the central station house with entrances on both the east and west sides of the street.
The central location had actually been quite hazardous. Before its demolition in 1967, the 116th crosswalk was the site of two pedestrian deaths from the Columbia community. As we know, the city made the changes.
Of the crowds of people that will step out of the 116th stop each day, no one will stop to honor the former site of a handsome 1904 station house. In our cities of perpetual modernization, transformations occur each day, virtually unnoticed, until the city is reborn, ready to start the cycle anew. It is these physical, architectural remnants that may be our last guarantee that all will not be forgotten.