Originally constructed from 1878-1880, and expanded through the early 20th century to eventually serve east Manhattan from South Ferry all the way to 125th Street, the Second Avenue Elevated Line was ultimately demolished during the summer of 1942. Once one of four major elevated lines (the other three running up 3rd Avenue, 6th Avenue, and 9th/8th Avenues), the 2nd Avenue El had come to be seen as an antiquated eyesore, filling the neighborhood with unwanted noise, and blocking sunlight from reaching the street. The plan was to replace the city’s elevated lines with newer, more modern, and more aesthetically pleasing subway lines, much like what was done on 6th Avenue in the 1930s (it was replaced by what are now the B/D/F/M lines in lower Manhattan). But the long-promised 2nd Avenue Subway line has suffered from decades of false-starts and financial woes, only recently reaching a point of construction where it seems likely to be completed this century.
I can’t help but to wonder how many people in the above photograph could have imagined that the destruction of their station in 1942 would mark the end of train travel on the far east side for more than 70 years. The 34th Street Station allowed passengers to transfer to an east-west spur which could carry them to the East River Ferry Terminal. You can see those tracks stretching left and right from the under-demolition station house above. As someone who has hoofed it crosstown to catch a boat one too many times, I can attest to the fact that this service continues to be missed to this day.