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The History of Tile in Subways


Across the United States and around the world, tiles and mosaic art play an integral part in the history of underground transit systems. Long recognized for its durability and ease of care, tile has always been a natural choice to cover subway walls and floors, many of which would see thousands of travelers every day.


When the New York City Subway System opened in 1904, the world was first introduced to Subway Tile. The rectangular, white, ceramic tile used to cover the walls of this underground transit system can be credited with helping to popularize the use of tile in subways around the world. What's more, in addition to the miles of white tile that protected walls and floors of the subways, beautiful mosaic artwork decorated the underground halls.


Today's modern subways (whether known as the T, L, Metro, or Tube) showcase a wide array of classic and modern art. While the ceramic Subway Tile that once covered underground subway surfaces has largely been replaced by newer, more durable materials, much of the original mosaic artwork that decorated the underground walkways remains intact. What's more, mosaic artists are consistently being commissioned to create new works to decorate subway walls and floors. 


Durable and stain-resistant, glass tile is a great choice for subway mosaics. Translucent glass tiles help illuminate dimly lit areas as light flows through them and onto nearby surfaces. For hundreds of years, since their early development by the Byzantines, people have recognized the natural beauty of glass tile mosaics. The versatility of glass allows for glass tiles to be made in an endless variety of colors, textures, and finishes. From modern subway-inspired glass tiles, to bright blends infused with glitter or flecks or gold, incorporating glass tile into subway mosaics brings beauty and light to traditional wall art.


The beauty of modern subways has earned them an online and print following. Web sites rate subways based on art and upkeep and guidebooks take travelers on tours of well-known transit systems. For more information about subway art around the world visit:


Metro Bits' - Metro Arts and Architecture




NYCSubway.org's Artwork Page


Visit our Amazing Tile Gallery to see examples of glass tile mosaic artwork created with Susan Jablon Mosaics' designer glass mosaic tiles.