Tunnel Vision: New York Subway Construction Photographs, 1900–1908
The New-York Historical Society's exhibit Tunnel Vision: New York Subway Construction Photographs, 1900–1908, explores the logistical challenges and remarkable effort that went into what at the time, was the largest construction project in the city's history. The exhibition showcases 80 photographs, culled from more than 5,000 from 1900–1908 in the Historical Society's Subway Construction Photograph Collection, all of which were a gift from the New York City Board of Transportation in 1950. Made primarily for insurance purposes, the overall collection contains nearly 60,000 photos showcasing buildings and streetscapes before, during and after construction of the of the entire subway system from 1900 until the last line was finished in 1947.
"These photographs capture the incredible human spirit behind this massive project and reveal the pride and willpower that laborers used in lieu of modern technology to make the subway a reality. This was truly a feat in modern engineering for the city to accomplish this task and Tunnel Vision will provide visitors with a snapshot into this extraordinary period of growth for New York," said New York Historical Society President & CEO Dr. Louise Mirrer.
The photographs and text panels document in vivid detail the "cut-and-cover" technique that the project's chief engineer, William Barclay Parsons developed. The process, in which crews dug a shallow excavation below the street surface and built a concrete and steel subsurface for trains to run through. The me