This is a article from our October 2013 Issue, Check out our March Issue today!
The Rochester subway, an ever-changing mural of artwork, political statements, explosions of color and sometimes indecipherable names.
The last passenger to ride through here on a train was on June 30th 1956, but people can be seen down here everyday with cameras, spray paint, rollers, and cans upon cans of paint. Occasionally you may spot a homeless person or a person clearly on their way down to get high in a spot they know no one will bother them.
As you walk further in to the South Ave/Court St entrance there is evidence of graffiti and drug use scattered everywhere. Empty blunt wrappers, scattered empty cans of spray paint, only few and far between though they come far more densely as you get closer towards the library. Coming through the overhang of concrete you’ll see the Genesee River as well as the Blue Cross arena. The view is even better if you go during the evening as the sun comes through very through a few of the archways.
As you continue forward you will find a large concrete barrier where two separate rails ran through right next to the downtown library, this is where the spray cans become thicker, murals more detailed, occasional groups of people and beautiful washes of color cover the walls nearly top to bottom, in some places literally top to bottom! The graffiti here reaches its peak, murals are incredibly detailed multiple cans of paint sit at the edge of walls, missing all of their spray caps as any seasoned artist would know.
Continuing forward passed the library, light becomes non-existent and flash lights (or in the case of my brother and I, a 200 lumen spot light) are essential. Once you get passed the initial archways, and you adjust to the darkness, the subway begins to take shape in your vision. Some station platforms exist still even having complete staircases and old window frames, its almost an odd sight seeing what is clearly a station platform imagining people coming down here everyday 80+ years ago.
Artwork is stilled scrawled on the walls the entire way down becoming significantly less and less detailed as you go, occasionally a nice one or two will pop up here and there, but typically its offensive words, odd statements and in one case an entire note written on a wall. The darkness is occasionally pierced by a thin veil of light from vents built into the ceiling to let in air, a personal favorite spot of mine is where a person painted Wi-Fi Access on the wall with an arrow pointing up towards a small vent (though there was no Wi-Fi to be found when we checked our cell phones but a little bit of a signal though), other than the occasional light the darkness makes every movement, every noise seem exaggerated, shadows sometimes play tricks on your eyes. After the long walk a light at the end of the tunnel!
No you’re not dying dear reader, that’s the St. Paul spill out, personally I don’t suggest making your way out there as you’ve been in the dark so long that it hurts your eyes and when you go back your vision has to re-adjust, either way CONGRATULATIONS, you’ve successfully traversed the Rochester subway! One of the most easily accessible places to start urban exploration, I highly suggest this spot to anyone new to Rochester or anyone new to exploring, rich in history, steeped in breath-taking artwork that comes from cans this place will never cease to amaze and bring a grin to your face.