Pennsylvania Station

Pennsylvania Station, Prior to Opening, 1910

Pennsylvania Station, Prior to Opening, 1910

In 1910, the Pennsylvania Railroad Station, or Penn Station, opened to the public. The building, which was torn down in 1963 prompting the creation of New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission, had been designed by the famed architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White in the Beaux-Arts style. The interior concourse, which you see in this black and white photograph taken just prior to the station's completion in 1910, was inspired by the Roman Baths of Caracalla.

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Seventh Avenue and West 29th Street, 1915

Seventh Avenue and West 29th Street, 1915

Streetcars rumble down Seventh Avenue, past horse-drawn carts and seemingly all male pedestrians.  Looking a couple of blocks north, on the west side of the street, one can see the columns of the Pennsylvania Station, which opened in 1910. The buildings look like a mixture of street-level store fronts and upper story residences.

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Pennsylvania Station Train Concourse, Clock, and Arch, 1940

Pennsylvania Station Train Concourse, Clock, and Arch, 1940

This clock in Penn Station was often photographed. It cried out for it, hanging as it did just beyond the darkened archway. Here we see it in the summer of 1940, hanging portentously above a crowd largely composed of men in uniform. They all know war is coming, that it is only a matter of time.

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Pennsylvania Station Train Concourse, 1940

Pennsylvania Station Train Concourse, 1940

The great Pennsylvania Railroad station was thirty years old at the time of this photograph, and it had yet to see its greatest traffic. Passenger volume would reach its peak during the war years. Rail travel would diminish in the years following the war as other modes of transportation, most notably air travel, gained popularity. By the 1950s, Penn Station would no longer be profitable, and the Pennsylvania Railroad would sell its air rights as means of offsetting the cost of operating the station. This would result in the eventual demolition of station.

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Train Departure Concourse, Pennsylvania Station, 1938

Train Departure Concourse, Pennsylvania Station, 1938

There was a time, not all that long ago, when railroads were the dominant form of travel in the United States, and the train stations of major cities reflected their importance. Pennsylvania Station in New York City was the grand-daddy of them all. Designed by the firm of McKim, Mead & White in the Beaux-Arts style, Penn Station was the ultimate blend of functionality with monumental grandeur.

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West 34th Street and Eighth Avenue, circa 1950

West 34th Street and Eighth Avenue, circa 1950

It's a wet day in the early 1950s, and the Fashion District is all abustle.  Looking southeast from the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 34th Street, one sees two way traffic on Eighth Avenue, including a "Train Connection" bus heading uptown. A Greyhound Bus heads east along 34th Street. Beyond the low-rise stores along Eighth, one can see the great Beaux Arts edifice of the original Pennsylvania Station.

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Seventh Avenue and West 30th Street, c. 1920

Seventh Avenue and West 30th Street, c. 1920

Looking north from West 30th Street along Seventh Avenue one can see two of the famed works of the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, Pennsylvania Station and the Hotel Pennsylvania. The former opened in 1910 and was demolished in 1963, while the latter opened in 1919 and is still operating. The Hotel Pennsylvania  has been in danger of demolition since the 1990s, having been unable to secure, as of 2011, landmark status.

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Southwest Overview of Pennsylvania Station, 1910

Southwest Overview of Pennsylvania Station, 1910

In 1910, New York City opened its Temple of Transportation. In this photograph, taken shortly after the opening of Pennsylvania Station, we can see McKim, Mead & White's neo-classical monument in all its glory. Covering more than 7 acres, Penn Station was the largest indoor space in New York City and one of the largest public spaces in the world.

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Pennsylvania Station at Night, c. 1922

Pennsylvania Station at Night, c. 1922

What have we lost? Prior to the establishment of the Landmarks Commission, many wonderful buildings were torn down in the name of progress. Perhaps none was a greater loss than the original Penn Station. In this exterior night shot, it looks a worthy successor to the Roman monuments it was meant to evoke.

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Pennsylvania Station Restaurant, 1910

Pennsylvania Station Restaurant, 1910

In 1910, Pennsylvania Station was the paragon of New York elegance. This restaurant, populated by ghosts thanks to the photograph's long exposure, is a far cry from the fast food joints of today's Penn Station. Not only did one enter the city like a god, one was expected to eat like a human being.

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