The white tiles, as well as a decorative wreath at the arch’s highest point, give an ordinary subway ride an air of celebration and glory. (If you look past the grime, of course.)
The uptown IRT stations at 168th Street, 181st Street, and 191st Street run along what’s called the Washington Heights Mine Tunnel.
At the turn of the century, workers cut through bedrock to build these stations, and the platforms are several stories below ground.
Perhaps engineers decided that an arch was needed to keep the station from caving in. And in an era when city buildings were designed to be inspiring, architects chose to make the arch something artistic and uplifting.