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Old Pennsylvania Station (New York City)

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Author Topic: Old Pennsylvania Station (New York City)  (Read 686 times)
Lisa Wolfe
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« on: June 21, 2010, 01:23:32 pm »

Original structure (1910–1963)
The original structure was made of pink granite and was marked by an imposing, sober colonnade of Doric columns. The colonnades embodied the sophisticated integration of multiple functions and circulation of people and goods. McKim, Mead and White's Pennsylvania Station combined frank glass-and-steel train sheds and a magnificently proportioned concourse with a breathtaking monumental entrance to New York City. It was immortalized in film. From the street, twin carriageways, modelled after Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, led to the two railroads that the building served, the Pennsylvania and the Long Island Rail Road. Its enormous main waiting room, inspired by the Roman Baths of Caracalla, approximated the scale of St. Peter's nave in Rome, expressed here in a steel framework clad in travertine. It was the largest indoor space in New York City and, indeed, one of the largest public spaces in the world. Covering more than 7 acres (28,000 m2), it was, said the Baltimore Sun in April, 2007, “As grand a corporate statement in stone, glass and sculpture as one could imagine”.[12] In her 2007 book, Conquering Gotham: a Gilded Age Epic – The Construction of Penn Station and Its Tunnels, historian Jill Jonnes called the original edifice a “great Doric temple to transportation”.[13]

During the more than half-century timespan of the original station under owner Pennsylvania Railroad (1910–1963), hundreds of intercity passenger trains arrived and departed daily, serving distant places such as Chicago and St. Louis on “Pennsy” rails, and beyond on connecting railroads to Miami, Florida, and the west. In addition to the Long Island Rail Road, other lines using Pennsylvania Station during that era were the New Haven and the Lehigh Valley Railroads. For a few years during World War I and the early 1920s, arch rival Baltimore and Ohio Railroad passenger trains to Washington, Chicago, and St. Louis also used Pennsylvania Station, initially by order of the USRA, until the Pennsylvania Railroad terminated the B&O's access in 1926.[14] The station saw its heaviest usage during World War II, but by the late-1950s intercity rail passenger volumes declined dramatically with the coming of the Jet Age and the Interstate Highway System.

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Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #1 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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Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2010, 01:25:07 pm »



View from the northeast, circa 1911. The sheer size of the structure in comparison to the surrounding buildings is notable. Very little of this scene survives in modern Manhattan.
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Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2010, 01:25:48 pm »



Pennsylvania Station in 1962
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« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2010, 01:26:29 pm »



The sprawling concourse in 1962 – demolition was two years away.
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Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2010, 01:27:06 pm »



The concourse and steps down to the tracks
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Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2010, 01:27:35 pm »



The concourse in 1962
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« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2010, 01:28:11 pm »



The East (7th Ave.) exterior facade
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Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2010, 01:28:41 pm »



Main Waiting Room
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« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2010, 01:29:12 pm »



The Corinthian columns of the Main Waiting Room
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Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2010, 01:29:34 pm »

Demolition of station building; construction of Madison Square Garden
After a renovation covered some of the grand columns with plastic and blocked off the spacious central hallway with a new ticket office, Lewis Mumford wrote critically in The New Yorker in 1958 that “nothing further that could be done to the station could damage it”. History was to prove him wrong. Under the presidency of Pennsylvania Railroad's Stuart T. Saunders (who later headed ill-fated Penn Central Transportation), demolition of the above-ground components of this structure (the platforms are below street level) began in October 1963. Although the demolition did not disrupt the essential day-to-day operations, it made way for present-day Madison Square Garden, along with two office towers. A 1968 advertisement depicted the architect's model of the final plan for the Madison Square Garden Center complex, which would replace the original Pennsylvania Station.

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« Reply #11 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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