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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • EAT MORE FISH, 1917

Penn Station: 1910

Penn Station: 1910

Circa 1910. "Pennsylvania station, main concourse, New York." Silver gelatin glass transparency, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

Rivets

Dr Q, those structural members were most likely fabricated before they were erected to form the building, possibly in a workshop off-site. Typical practice of the period would be to use a horseshoe or yoke rivetter during fabrication, rather than knocking the rivets down by hand. Only the field or construction joints would be formed that way on-site.

Myth

While the loss of this structure might not have been the reason for the Landmarks Law, the loss reinforced why such a law was needed to avoid aesthetic blunders in the future.

Meadowlands

I remember an article in Preservation magazine (maybe early 90's?) that chronicled the loss of Penn Station, and how some folks had actually done some research in Jersey at the site of the Meadowlands stadium, where a considerable amount of demolition debris wound up as landfill. They used ground penetrating radar and were able to identify columns and statues that had been trucked over and dumped.

Re: Historic Indeed

Err... I think Jennifridge expressed a splendidly ironic barb playing off recent comments regarding "dreckful" family photos of summer vacation.

Show me the money

Whatever your perspective on the historical value of Pennsylvania station, the truth behind its demise had everything to do with money -- in particular the Pennsy's lack of it in the years preceding its ill-fated merger with the New York Central. Pennsy's management came to the realization that air rights above the existing Manhattan station were worth a great deal. The decision to raze the structure came easily to a company caught in the squeeze between a government that subsidized air travel and restrictive regulations that added cost to shipping freight.

Perhaps if the Pennsy had received as much largess as the airlines, we'd still have that historic building to gaze at.

Landmark Opinion

"What grew out of the rubble of Pennsylvania Station was the powerful myth that New York's Landmarks Law owed its very existence to the loss of that station. As wonderful a morality tale as that has become, it has just one problem: It just isn’t true."

-- Anthony Wood, author of "Preserving New York." More here.

Historic Indeed

I'd ask Jennifridge to cut a little slack. The photograph is obviously from a moment not long before the station was to open - you can still see some scaffolding work on one of the arches. This building, designed by the well-known firm of McKim, Mead, and White, is perhaps the most visible component of the Pennsylvania Railroad's entrance to Manhattan but even more significant are the Hudson River Tunnels which remain in use to this day.

"Conquering Gotham by Jill Jonnes is an excellent read on this fascinating subject.

Penn Station and Preservation

Despite critics who disliked Penn Station's imperial grandeur, inspired by the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, the loss of Penn Station in 1963 directly aided the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

This 1963 NY Times editorial summed up the bitterness of its loss: "Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed." If the photo above doesn't explain the widespread passion for this building, perhaps this one will help. The photo (and the quote) comes from a large gallery that can be found at www.nyc-architecture.com/GON/GON004.htm

Best Erector Set station

The old Penn Station surely could have won the Best Erector Set award, judging from the eerie photograph, if there was such a thing. Today's only wins the Worst Possible Space for Human Concourse award. There should be such a thing. Alas, no one wants to photograph the new monstrosity.

There Is a Ghost --

just look down the "Exit" stairs, bottom right. Looks like a woman in Victorian-length dress with a parasol. My imagination? Maybe, maybe not.

This picture is so boring

I wish there were some smiling, vacationing kids in it; even if they were out of focus they would give me something to identify with. But because there isn't a single face in it, and because it was taken by a professional photographer, this picture must be Historic. Therefore, I am going to sit back in my chair and be reverent, because that is what one does when one gazes upon something Historic and Artistic. Right? Isn't that what the arbiters of good taste would have me do?

Rail Palace

Reminds me of the statement made by Vincent Scully - (paraphrase): In the old Penn Station, one entered the city like a god, in the new, one scuttles in like a rat.

Another View

Click to enlarge.

Present Penn Station

Interesting comment on the old Penn Station from Anonymous. I never experienced the old one, but I'll agree that Grand Central is wonderful.
The thing about the present Penn Station is that they left the platforms of the old station, but replaced the terminal with a hideous, overcrowded, squalid, nasty ugly dump of a facility. A true commuter's Hell. It would be so nice to have that Farley Post Office converted to train station use, as has been promised for going on 20 years now.

All Those Rivets!

All my life I've read about the glories of Penn Station, and now at last I see what I missed. The traceries of steel and glass contrast nicely with the "classical temple" motif, but look at all the hand-assembled pieces, as seen on the closest steel supports and arches. Can you imagine the racket of installing all those rivets?

Overrated

If I may be a bit provocative here, as someone who experienced the original Pennsylvania Station (albeit briefly), I think this building is probably the most overrated building of the last 100 years — and perhaps even one of the most overrated buildings of all time.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think it is a tragedy that we lost Pennsylvania Station. But the building actually had plenty of things wrong with it (e.g., spaces that were grandiose but not really very beautiful or comfortable; a homely, two-block long Eighth Avenue facade, etc.) and very, very little going right. So from this perspective, it's not hard to understand the general public's ambivalence.

If New York had to lose one of its great railroad portals, it definitely lost the right one. Grand Central Terminal, even during its worst years, was many, many times better — as architecture, as public space, as a functional railroad terminal, as urbanism, etc. — than Pennsylvania Station was, even in its prime.

— Benjamin Hemric, N.Y. Times, 2007

The Exterior

Click to enlarge.

Imagine

All the ghosts of this station...

Bazillions of footsteps through the years. So nany memories must be linked to this place.

 
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