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Grandeur Of A Kind

I mentioned in passing that the original design of the facades of the elevated Queensboro Plaza subways station was more ornate than the standard exposed and built-up steel of the New York els and subways. The illustration above, from some five years before the station opened, gives a sense fo the intent, with monumental concrete arches at the base. This aesthetic was used for a large chunk of the Flushing line east of this station. Not the part immediately to the east, which is the standard steel skeleton, but starting about a quarter mile east of the station, after the elevated tracks cross over the Sunnyside Yard of the Long Island Rail Road and Queens Boulevard straightens out. Here’s a 1939 view showing the station at 33rd Street[efn_note] Queens’s 33rd Street, which bears absolutely no relationship to Manhattan’s 33rd Street or Brooklyn’s 33rd Street, and which used to be called Rawson Street. [/efn_note]:

The monumentality of the concrete viaduct is a bit at odds with the industrial neighborhood at the juncture between Long Island City and Sunnyside. The space below the viaduct was not yet used for parking. (If the 7 train were magically put into a tunnel tomorrow, removing the viaduct’s purpose, I would like to see it kept and repurposed, as it’s a great structure, but only if the parking were removed.) If you’re wondering why the IRT company would build the more expensive fancy viaduct through an industrial neighborhood, the answer is that they didn’t. Here’s the same view in 1917, when the viaduct was brand new:

Queens Boulevard wasn’t really a city street – it was a road connecting the towns of Queens County. Rawson Street had been named but was just a dirt track. The viaduct was built to serve people in the existing former towns further east that had been absorbed into the city (Woodside, Corona, Flushing) and to spur development in the areas between, like Sunnyside. In other words, we think of subways as transit for densely-developed areas, but it’s not clear that the dense development has to come first.