One of my passions is historic preservation. I love old historic anything; homes, libraries, government buildings, department stores, railroad stations, you name it. If it is old style architecture I love it. It is the reason I own an old Victorian house instead of a brand new one. I will never build a new house because I prefer to take an old one and restore it if need be. That is not to say that newer homes are not beautiful too. I simply prefer older homes because years ago building anything was more of an art-form. The materials used were sturdier and builders did not cut corners. This explains why so many older buildings are still standing today.
One of New York City’s architectural treasures that was lost in 1963 is the Pennsylvania Railroad Station at West 34th Street and Eighth Avenue. Built in 1910, this magnificent Beaux Arts building is lost to me and generations of others who will never see it.
I do understand that every building cannot be saved, however, to deliberately take down such a magnificent building that is not falling down to replace it makes absolutely no sense to me. The original Penn Station was demolished to relocate Madison Square Garden over it.
The Beaux Arts building that housed Penn Station was owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Train travel decreased because the number of people who owned cars had increased. With the decrease in train travelers the Pennsylvania Railroad Company found themselves in financial trouble. The Railroad sold the air rights over the train station to Madison Square Garden which gave them the right to demolish the original Pennsylvania Station building.
The staircases and train platform uses to be open and in view. Now when you go to Penn Station it is all closed up by walls and the floor was extended out so that the platforms and stairs are not visible at all.
The Pennsylvania Railroad company had not been maintaining the building during it last few years. You can see the soot and grim on the facade behind the protestors.
In the photo above you can see further the lack of maintenance. Some of the glass windows are greyed out with solid material instead of glass.
The Destruction of the Pennsylvania Railroad Station –
Demolition began in October 1963 and took three years to complete, ending in July 1966.
This is what replaced the Beaux Arts building of Pennsylvania Station.
I am not going to say this is ugly. It is simply different. Everything that is newer and more modern is not bad, but why could this not be built someplace else without experiencing such a great loss?
I took my first train ride on Amtrak when I was 12 years old and this is not what the station looked like underground. I did not get to see the original building. The old building stood over this, but even though it was gone by the time I took my first train ride, the area below still had the old world look. I remember well sitting on one of the wooden benches waiting for the train that would take me to Washington, DC. My mother put me on the train and I traveled to DC on my own. I was nervous but enjoyed the trip. My aunt Cleo and her husband met me at the station when I arrived in DC. It was summer break from school and I went to spend a week with my aunt and uncle. Unfortunately those old world elements underground have since been ripped out too and transformed into what you see here. Penn Station is very modernized now.
I still take rides on Amtrak into NYC and Maryland. You can still see the original steps and railing leading down to the platforms. The platforms and staircases were enclosed a long time ago.
The new and relocated Madison Square Garden opened in 1968.
In April 1965, New York City Mayor Robert Wagner signed the Landmarks law. It was too late to save the Pennsylvania Railroad Station Building, but it did help save Grand Central Station from demolition a few years later.