TheJournal.ie uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Click here to find out more »
Dublin: 5 °C Saturday 20 December, 2014

This is what was lost when Penn Station was demolished 50 years ago

The station – second only to Grand Central in New York – was razed to the ground in 1963.

THIS WEEK FIFTY years ago, authorities in New York City carried out a “monumental act of vandalism” by knocking Pennsylvania Station to the ground.

Sports venue Madison Square Garden was built on the site in the stead of what had been a pink-granite, marble-columned Beaux-Arts-style masterpiece. Photographs of the original Penn Station – built between 1905 and 1910 – show it to be a landmark to rival the still-existing Grand Central Station.

In fact, Grand Central Station owes its continued existence to a landmarks preservation law that was brought in on foot of the outcry over Penn’s destruction. A New York Times article from 1963 decried the demolition:

Until the first blow fell, no-one was convinced that Penn Station really would be demolished, or that New York would permit this monumental act of vandalism against one of the largest and finest landmarks of its age of Roman elegance.

The station had 84 marble Doric columns and a 150-foot vaulted ceiling over its concourse.

This image shows 3,000 people crammed into the main waiting room at Penn Station on 3 April 1949 to hear New York City council president Vincent Impellitteri speak at the launch of the United Jewish Appeal’s ‘Caravan of Hope’:

image

Image: AP Photo/Harry Harris

And on a less busy day in spring of 1962, the Historic American Buildings Survey snapped these images to preserve what was soon to be lost:

image

image

image

image

image

All above five images from US Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

The station had been a meeting place, a focal point for visiting dignitaries as well as a travel hub. This iconic image from 1942 is of a US soldier kissing his wife goodbye at Penn Station before going off to fight in World War II:

image

Image: Topham/Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images

The children of Charlie Chaplin and Lita Gray Chaplin – Charles Jr and Sydney Earle – pictured on a train leaving Penn station en route to the Pacific coast on 14 July 1932:

image

Image: AP Photo archive

Cuban president Fidel Castro arriving at Penn Station to crowds of admirers on a US trip in 21 April 1959. (You can spot him just to the right of the lamp in the centre of the photograph, wearing a cap):

image

Image: Ray Stu bblebine/AP/Press Association Images

A 1962 aerial shot shows the original Penn Station in all its glory:

image

Image: AP Photo

After the destruction. The construction of the new Madison Square Garden – on the site where Penn Station had stood for 53 years – is shown on 24 August 1966:

image

And on 2 March 1967:

image

And on 14 December 1967:

image

And on opening night on 11 February 1968. Bob Hope stands centrestage, hosting a benefit show for the United Services Organisations.

image

All above images by AP Photo archive.

And what of the rail station? It still is a massive transport hub – the mostly underground terminal now looks like this:

image

Image: BusinessInsider

The hidden gems of Dublin architectural heritage>
Why did this architect want to demolish downtown Paris?>

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

Read next:

Comments (18 Comments)

Add New Comment