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Old Pennsylvania Station (New York City)

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Lisa Wolfe
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« on: June 21, 2010, 01:24:07 pm »

The Pennsylvania Railroad began looking to divest itself of the cost of operation of the under-utilized structure, optioning the air rights of Penn Station in the 1950s. Plans for the new Penn Plaza and Madison Square Garden were announced in 1962. In exchange for the air-rights to Penn Station, the Pennsylvania Railroad would get a brand-new, air-conditioned, smaller station located completely below street level at no cost, and a 25% stake in the new Madison Square Garden Complex.

The demolition of the original structure — although considered by some to be justified as progressive at a time of declining rail passenger service — created international outrage.[12] As dismantling of the grand old structure began, The New York Times editorially lamented:

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.[15]

Its destruction left a deep and lasting wound in the architectural consciousness of the city. A famous photograph of a smashed caryatid in the landfill of the New Jersey Meadowlands struck a guilty chord. Pennsylvania Station's demolition is considered to have been the catalyst for the enactment of the city's first architectural preservation statutes. The sculpture on the building, including the angel in the landfill, was created by Adolph Alexander Weinman. One of the sculpted clock surrounds, whose figures were modeled using model Audrey Munson, still survives as the Eagle Scout Memorial Fountain in Kansas City, Missouri. There is also a caryatid at the sculpture garden at the Brooklyn Museum, and all of the Penn Station eagles still exist. Killer's Kiss a 1955 film noir co-written and directed by Stanley Kubrick features footage of the concourse and the exterior facade. Ottawa's Union Station, built a year after Penn Station (in 1912), is another replica of the Baths of Caracalla. This train station's departures hall now provides a good idea of what the interior of Penn Station looked like (at half the scale). Chicago's Union Station is similar as well.
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