Transit Tuesday – The Elevated in NYC

The El still lives on in Chicago – I’m not sure that they could live without it.

But the El once was a vital part of New York transportation, an improvement on surface railways, pre-dating the underground subways, and discarded hastily during the rise of the automobile. The last elevated line in Manhattan was the 3rd Avenue line, at last abandoned in the Bronx in 1973. The Els were noisy and cast shadows on the streets below. There were once elevated lines on 3rd, 6th, and 9th Avenues . The broadness of those avenues explains the activity that once took place above them. It was estimated in the 1940s, you could travel from my neighborhood in the way east 70s to Times Square in 12 minutes on the elevated. Today, that journey would take closer to 35 minutes.

The demise of the elevated allowed property values in New York to sky rocket. There was a value in not looking out your window to see passerbys on a train staring back just a few feet from your window. But the elevated says “city” to me.

Elevated Train Platform, André Kertész (American (born Hungary), Budapest 1894–1985 New York City). Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1984.1083.26.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.