Subway Excavation, Broadway and 49th Street – 1901
While the MTA is currently striving to build the new Second Avenue subway without disturbing businesses along the route, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) had no such compunction about hampering businesses as demonstrated by this photograph taken on November 26, 1901.
We are looking north along Broadway towards 49th Street. The J.B. Brewster Carriage showroom is on the left at 1581 Broadway. The “cut and cover method” of subway building is shown here in full swing. More than half the street is blocked off to dig the necessary trench.
This method of building, which disturbed all the utilities, businesses, and residents along the route, was not only cost effective, but fast.
It took less than four and a half years for the original subway line, nine miles in length, to be completed. Ground breaking for the subway occurred March 24, 1900 and the first section from City Hall to 145th Street was opened to the public on October 26, 1904. According to the book Interborough Rapid Transit The New York Subway Its Construction and Equipment (McGraw Publishing; 1904) the amount paid by the city for the construction was $35,000,000 and an additional sum was given not to exceed $2,750,000 for terminals, station sites, and other purposes.
It was an amazing accomplishment considering what New Yorker’s are currently putting up with just to build a two mile section of a new subway on Second Avenue.