City Hall station is at the very bottom of the subway line, on a loop the train uses to switch from traveling south to north, so it was easy to close off. Now you could travel south on the train, or you could travel north on the train, but you couldn't travel on that little section of track where it passes beneath City Hall and switches from south to north.
At least not officially.
Eventually some feckless traveller decided they'd ignore these instructions, and they discovered that nobody tried to stop them. The conductor says it's the end of the line and everybody has to get off, but nobody double-checks. They stayed in their seats and were ferried right through the gorgeous, abandoned station, and then they ran home to tell their friends.
Chris had been here almost ten years before he heard about it, but when he did he literally dragged me to the subway to give it a try. We sat in the front car so we'd get the best view, and stayed in our seats when everybody left. Before the train started up again, though, the conductor approached and repeated that it was the last stop.
Chris never told the truth when a lie would suffice, so he launched into an off-the-cuff fraud. "VEE er FOR-in TOO-rists," he announced. "VEE haf HURD of dee abandoned sub-VAY STAY-shun DEEP under-GRUND. VEE vud LAKE to see dees STAY-shun."
The conductor shot Chris a quizzical glance but eventually he shrugged. "Okay," he said, and he put out a call on his radio, presumably alerting someone that there would be two people aboard when the train turned around. In a gesture of international friendship, he waved us into the cab with him, then started up the train and we were off. "Where are you guys from?" he asked.
"VEE er from SVEE-den," Chris said. "But vee really LOF dees city." He was about to offer further details when we pulled into the station and our mouths dropped open in awe.
Everywhere we looked, intricate patterns of gold leaf sparkled with the light. Gold arches curved above the track, inset with panels of stained glass that glowed with intense jewel colors. A skylight of wrought iron had tendrils of hammered metal that recalled 1920s France. Guastavino arches buttressed the ceiling in gently-interlocking planes of orange and yellow tile.
The driver inched forward so we could get a detailed look. "So how long have you guys been in New York?" the conductor asked.
With his face inches from the window, Chris was lost in the face of pure beauty. "Almost ten years now," he announced.