F Train Cherry Tree Mosaics

Art & Culture | History

Where Subway Mosaics Give a Juicy Peek at Local History

F Train Cherry Tree Mosaic

About F Train Cherry Tree Mosaics

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • On the Manhattan-bound side of the Delancey/Essex F Station, you’ll find an abundant mosaic orchard, rendered in art glass by the Chinese-American, New York artist Ming Fay.
  • Much of Fay’s work focuses on gardens as a symbol of the utopian ideal, and the relationship between man and nature…
  • But, his Delancey Orchard here at Delancey/Essex also carries strong local historical bona fides.
    • The art, installed in 2004, is a reference to the actual De Lancey Orchard, a cherry orchard that grew on the De Lancey family farm around what is now, fittingly, Orchard Street.
    • The De Lanceys once owned pretty much all of what is now the LES!
    • In addition to the orchard, along the Manhattan-bound F platform you’ll find small cherry mosaics, which are a variation on the same theme.
  • But what if you’re headed to Brooklyn?
    • In that case, you’ll find rainbow fish, which keep the local color flowing:
      • Fay’s gorgeous multicolor fish mural depicts shad crossing the East River.
      • Because we know you’re curious, shad are game fish native to the waters around New York City. They are delicious but very bony, so you won’t find them on many menus. According to cooking site Spruce Eats, there is an Indian saying about the shad that goes, “A porcupine fled into the water and was turned inside out to become the shad.”


Carpe City Trivia

Did you know that the Delancey / Essex station is not the only place you can find fabulous subway mosaics?

  • In fact, subway mosaics predate the subway itself!
    • The subway officially opened in 1904, but artists had been at work on the mosaics that adorned the original 28 stations of what is now the Lexington Line since 1901.
    • Goerge C. Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge designed those original mosaics in the Arts and Crafts style.
      • Some of the best examples of those early mosaics are the glazed terra cotta tiles at Bleecker Streeet and Astor Place (6 train).
    • Squire J. Vickers took over for Heins and LaFarge and was responsible for the beautiful tiling in more than 300 stations!
      • He completed most of his work prior to 1920, in a pared down “machine age” style, using geometric bands of color (think 72nd St. or 86th St.)
    • Then, in 1966, came Massimo Vignelli, The Standards Manual, and the reign of Helvetica (that white font on black signs you see in every station).
    • As that signage became standard in the subway, the city took a renewed interest in subway mosaics as potential areas for public art.
      • Thus was born the Arts for Transit program, which has solicited subway murals from some of the most celebrated artists in the world.
      • Everyone from Roy Lichtenstein to Chuck Close to Faith Ringgold to Milton Glaser to Yoko Ono has created a mural for the MTA! Curbed New York has a great article featuring the art of 20 stations.

By: Lucie Levine

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