Kingsbridge: Substation No. 3

October 28th 2009 -

If the Harlem River is "New York's forgotten waterfront" then Substation No. 3 is one of the most forsaken places in New York City. Situated on the Bronx shores of the Harlem River, few references can be found to its history, its architect or its purpose. Unlike the well documented Substation No. 10 in Inwood, Substation No. 3 is not even mentioned in the exhaustive Harlem River study written by Columbia's historic preservation program. Just one historic reference to its existence can be found online: an unpublished photograph in the NY Public Library archives, culled from a 1926 collection titled "The Pageant of America - Volume 4: The March of Commerce."

Substation No. 3, also known as the Kingsbridge Substation, is a simple structure. Two stories in height, it is constructed from utilitarian red brick. Inside, two large skylights loom over an open hall. Exposed to the elements, the substation's interior is in relatively poor shape compared to Substation No. 10. Heavy equipment is collapsing into the basement.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this anonymous structure are the numerous objects found inside that indicate a family recently called it home. Luggage, blankets, medication and a toothbrush are tidily arranged around the substation alongside the belongings of several children: stuffed animals, a baseball glove, story books. Like the haunting Victim Services center in Staten Island, these objects hint at a bleak, unwritten history.

Open Skylights

Substation Interior

Layers of Industry

Skater and Toothbrush

Smiling Elephant

Boa and Bunny

"It's All About ME!"

Chopin and Champagne

Flammable Material

To the Basement

The Lower Depths


Imminent Collapse


  1. What makes you think those people aren't still living in there?

  2. I don't know what's better, the writeup or the photography!

  3. Very Interesting article. Keep up the great work and photography.

  4. Glorious find! Almost seems to be forgotten on the way side.