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Old Pennsylvania Station (New York City)

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Lisa Wolfe
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« on: June 21, 2010, 01:29:57 pm »

A point made in the defense of the demolition of the old Penn Station at the time was that the cost of maintaining the old structure had become prohibitively expensive. The question of whether it made sense to preserve a building, intended to be a cost-effective and functional piece of the city's infrastructure, simply as a “monument” to the past was raised in defense of the plans to demolish it. As a New York Times editorial critical of the demolition noted at the time, a “civilization gets what it wants, is willing to pay for, and ultimately deserves”.[16] Modern architects rushed to save the ornate building, although it was contrary to their own styles. They called the station a treasure and chanted “Don’t Amputate – Renovate” at rallies.[17]

Only three eagles salvaged from the station are known to remain in New York City: two in front of the Penn Plaza / Madison Square Garden complex, and one at The Cooper Union, Weinman's alma mater. Cooper's eagle used to reside in the courtyard of the Albert Nerken School of Engineering at 51 Astor Place,[18] but was relocated in the summer of 2009, along with the engineering school, to a new academic building at 41 Cooper Square. This eagle is no longer viewable from the street, as it is located on the building's green roof.[19] Three are on Long Island: two at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point and one at the Long Island Rail Road station in Hicksville, New York. Four reside on the Market Street Bridge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, across from that city's 30th Street Station. One is positioned near the end zone at the football field of Hampden-Sydney College near Farmville, Virginia. Yet another is located on the grounds of the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

The furor over the demolition of such a well-known landmark, and its replacement by what continues to be widely deplored as a mediocre slab, are often cited as catalysts for the architectural preservation movement in the United States. New laws were passed to restrict such demolition. Within the decade, Grand Central Terminal was protected under the city’s new landmarks preservation act — a protection which was upheld by the courts in 1978, after a challenge by Grand Central’s owner, Penn Central.

The outcry over the loss of Penn Station prompted activists to question the “development scheme” mentality cultivated by New York’s “master builder”, Robert Moses. Public protests and a rejection of his plan by the city government meant an end to Moses' plans for a Lower Manhattan Expressway.

In the longer run, the sense that something irreplaceable had been lost contributed to the erosion of confidence in Modernism itself and its sweeping forms of urban renewal. Interest in historic preservation was strengthened. Comparing the new and the old Penn Station, renowned Yale architectural historian Vincent Scully once wrote, “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.” This feeling, shared by many New Yorkers, has led to movements for a new Penn Station that could somehow atone for the loss of an architectural treasure.[20]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penn_Station_(New_York)
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