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If you're either a New Yorker, longtime resident of NYC, or fan of architecture, you undoubtedly know about the saga regarding Pennsylvania Station, which was once located where Madison Square Garden is now and taken apart in the mid 1960s. It's very hard to know this, because most pictures that get posted of Penn Station are almost always in gorgeous black and white, which easily camouflage defects.
7th Avenue entrance to old Penn Station, with Madison Square Garden emerging from behind it.
The seemingly solid interior of old Penn Station was nothing more than a shell with a steel skeleton underneath. For ten years the financially strapped line had been trying to divest itself of the structure, all the while allowing it to fall into disrepair. In the main waiting room the six lunette windows were clouded with dirt, and the Jules Guerin murals beneath them were little more than dark, colorless expanses. A film of dirt had crept over the entire building, from the stately interior to the outside walls. The reason why they've reacted so insanely this is that they keep imagining people hacking away at the Penn Station they've only known from images posted on the web-- the pink-white structure, fresh and untouched by the sands of time. As you can expect, New York's Pennsylvania Stations is well illustrated, filled with scores of photographs of the building as it was being built and when it was eventually completed. I say "damning" because they sort of shatter the myth that's often perpetuated by those angry about the station's demolition. At any rate, if you're a major "Old" Penn Station fan and can't get your hands on Lorraine B. It had been in disrepair at least a decade before its demise, causing it to become an eyesore that most New Yorkers at the time were more than happy to get rid of.


Although the entire structure looked like it was built from the ground up with solid marble, granite, and stone, it wasn't. With so much grime and soot covering the exterior, it's no wonder New Yorkers were less than enthusiastic about saving it. Most people who knew the station as it was now (in 1960) would have been surprised to learn that what grime had made to seem an ugly gray granite was really sparkling pink.
It's to temper the almost psychotic-like rage you often hear from people still bitter about this entire affair. Diehl's The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station, a wonderful look at the rise and fall of the monumental structure that once stood on the site of the current Madison Square Garden.
However, lovers of the station need not worry, as there's another well written book on the subject. Not only does it also cover the history of the building and railroad terminal, it offers extensive coverage of the proposed conversion of the nearby Farley Post Office into a new version of Penn Station.
Those wanting a history book strictly about Penn Station will probably find this section of New York's Pennsylvania Stations uninteresting.
In the book New York's Pennsylvania Stations by Hilary Ballon, you can see full color pictures of Penn Station that were taken by photographer Norman McGrath at the time of its demolition. This was not the result of demolition, as it can be seen in earlier black and white photos from the 50s.
During those ten years the station sat in shabby splendor, desecrated by indifference and the railroad's desperate attempts to remain solvent. The station may have technically died in 1966, but by then it had been put on life support due to disrepair and grime.


Not only is it informative and well written, it comes with rare color pictures of Penn Station, as well as a section on the future Moynihan Station. The entire interior was merely a shell of plaster covering an underlying steel structure. It was only a matter of time  before both Pennsylvania Railroad or New Yorkers would happily pull the plug.
Their fates are perfect examples that America can not be trusted with our precious architectural heritage. So in spite of all the glowing eulogies crowing that it was "built for the ages", it wasn't. It suffered from misguided modernization, and was finally shuttered for years to suffer water damage and neglect.
It could have had the necessary repairs except for the avarice of New York developers and the overall cesspool of greed and corruption that is the beating heart of New York City.Penn Station was a victim of rapacious NYC vultures.
It even had mushrooms growing inside of, but it's been restored to its original beauty, and the same thing should have happened to Pennsylvania Station.



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