Under a decorative plaque by Grueby Faience in the 59th Street-Columbus Circle station, you can spot an old tile mosaic if you look carefully enough. Yesterday the NY Times noted the find, but said "it's unclear whether it is a true mosaic, with individual tiles, or a mosaic pattern stamped on to a large surface." We consulted Drew Wrzesniewski, a mosaic artist at Mixed Up Mosaics, and he told us, "From what i can see of it, it looks like a tile mosaic with individually cut pieces. It's difficult to tell from the picture if they are hand cut or not though."
The unearthed mosaic is from 1901, and was created three years before the first underground line of the subway opened; author Philip Ashforth Coppola says the Columbus Circle station "was virtually the first station to be completed in structural form. Because of this, the architects used its walls as an art gallery, experimenting with decorative ideas in various colors of tiles and other materials.” These "experiments" were eventually covered over and forgotten about. NYC Transit's Charles Seaton told the paper, “We are well aware of the historical significance of this find, and we are working on a design for a window in the wall so this treasure can be shared with the public at some future date.”
Note to those who want a peek in the meantime: it's on the the uptown platform of the No. 1 train, and our intern Elyssa Goldberg—who took these photos this morning—says, "It was very much hidden and high up. Nobody even seemed to notice."