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The main entrance to Penn Station in New York City, which Colleen passes during her morning commute. It was the start to a perfectly planned day — that is, until my phone started furiously vibrating, receiving e-mails that had been sent over the last few days!
We took our iced coffees to the front doors of Laura’s office and decided to meet again later to catch the 6:13 train home. The original Penn Station was a steel and glass shrine to transportation, an elegant Beaux-Arts temple with its 150 foot high ceilings and a waiting room modeled after the Roman Baths of Caracalla. Now it is an underground Habitrail™, lit by yellowed fluorescents and flavored by the odors of Roy Rogers™ and Cinnabon™ stinking down the corridors. Life Magazine has posted an entire series by Eisenstaedt of WWII soldiers’ farewells at Penn Station here.
Peter Moore and his wife Barbara documented the death of Penn Station and published their work, The Destruction Of Penn Station. The only consolation is that Penn Station’s demolition was a large factor in the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965.
To many, Penn Station is the utilitarian underground plaza beneath New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden.
Constructed of pink granite and marked by an imposing, classical colonnade, Pennsylvania Station was served by twin carriageways modeled after Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
This article revisits the original structure in pictures, highlighting the beginning of the end of American rail travel’s glory days.
Keep reading – explore 20 vintage railway scenes from the glory days of train travel. Because it was dismantled over 50 years ago, many people are familiar with the grandeur of the original Penn Station only through photographs. The station was opened to the public on September 8, 1910 and the cost of the exterior alone was over $100 million.


Seen from the exterior, the beautiful McKim Mead and White masterpiece represented a merging of modernity and classic architecture. The Pennsylvania Railroad knew the land the building was sitting on was worth more than the station itself. Without regard that a great civic wrong was being done, Penn Station was demolished between 1963 and 1966. More than two generations of New Yorkers have lamented the loss and contemplated replacements to bring about a new edifice and station worthy of the name.
1910-1963 The destruction of Penn Station The fall of a New York architectural martyr by Alex Q. The main waiting room, inspired by the Roman Baths of Caracalla, was the largest indoor space in the city — a block and a half long with vaulted glass windows soaring 150 feet over a sun-drenched chamber. This may sound unfamiliar for present-day residents of New York City, who know Penn Station as a miserable subterranean labyrinth.
Though the original Penn Station served 100 million passengers a year at its peak in 1945, by the late 1950s the advent of affordable air travel and the Interstate Highway System had cut into train use. In 1962 plans were revealed to demolish the terminal and build entertainment venue Madison Square Garden on top of it. Vocal backlash and protests ensued, but the plan moved forward and Penn Station was demolished. The outrage was a major catalyst for the architectural preservation movement in the United States. Excepting the mad scurry for Amtrak platforms after the track number has finally been revealed on the big board, it is an oppressive space completely without joy.
But from 1910 to 1963, the site was occupied by a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by McKim, Mead & White that is still considered one of the architectural jewels of New York City. Its main waiting room was inspired by the Roman Baths of Caracalla and at 150 feet high, it was the largest indoor space in New York City and one of the largest indoor public spaces in the world.


But according to the Pennsylvania Railroad, the owners of Penn Station, by the mid 1950’s, it was also grimy, outdated, in need of costly repairs and difficult to keep clean. It was replaced by a banal, claustrophobic, ugly underground maze also called Penn Station which bears no resemblance to the original, to cattle chute passengers to their trains.
The Farley Post Office (also by McKim Mead and White) between 8th and 9th Avenues directly across the street from the current Penn Station is often discussed as hosting a remodeled station, but nothing has been done to bring those plans to fruition. Beyond that, trains emerged from bedrock to deposit passengers on a concourse lit by an arching glass and steel greenhouse roof. The new train station would be entirely underground and boast amenities such as air-conditioning and fluorescent lighting. In 1965, the New York Landmarks Law was passed, which helped save the iconic Grand Central Terminal and more than 30,000 other buildings from similar fates. The new station, a tangle of subway lines and commuter rail, is the busiest terminal in the country and bursting at the seams. These conditions existed mostly because the Pennsylvania Railroad let the station fall into that state. Plans are currently underway to renovate and expand the station, and restore a modicum of its original glory. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.



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