A Mosaic Unseen For 109 Years Is Revealed at Columbus Circle

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    A piece of old New York has been found at a city construction site. Katy Tur has the Discovery.

    As you rush hurriedly in or out of the subway, it’s easy to mentally checkout, to be distracted by subway performers -- like the giant banana playing a xylophone. But it's not easy to see what’s hidden, even if it's just beyond your nose.
     
    The 59th street Columbus Circle station, under construction for years now, is a virtual treasure trove of history. It was one of the first stations built, and because of that, it was one of the biggest design experiments in the city.
     
    One of those experiments in underground expression was discovered when a construction crew working on the uptown 1 platform tore a hole in one of the walls. The wall, it turned out, was actually a false wall. Behind it hid a grey, red and blue muted mosaic.

    A mosaic that hasn’t been seen in 11 decades.

    Subway historians believe the mosaic, which dates to 1901, was covered because it failed to meet the standards of an art lover and subway benefactor.

    “August Belmont, the 'Sugar Daddy' who helped build this line, was an art lover, and what he wanted was beautiful artwork in every single station,” subway historian Stan Fischler said.

    The uncovered mosaic wasn’t exactly the beautiful artwork that Belmont wanted -- so it was covered up and replaced by forest green, molded trim, punctuated by tile’s featuring the Santa Maria.

    It was an homage to the station’s namesake, Christopher Columbus.

    Not everyone agrees with the century-old design decision to hide the mosaic.
     
    “I like the mosaic because it’s a lost art, it's something that’s fading away,” argued Valencia Russell of Harlem, as she explained the discovery to her young daughter.
     
    But if you are worried that it will get covered back up again before you can see it with your own eyes, don’t worry. The MTA says they are planning on building a window so that the hidden mosaic will permanently be on display.
     
    Frankly, even if you do miss this most recent discovery, Fischler guarantees there will be more to see. He says there’s so much that has been covered up over the years that there’s bound to be more discoveries as each station gets modernized.