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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.
Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? There is not an endeavor, ambition or activity in the built world that cannot be enhanced by a warm, embracing ambience.
There are abundant examples in every category of modern life, but observe just one (itself, perhaps, the least obvious) - transportation.
Designed by Charles Luckman in 1968, the current Penn Station famously arose from the wreckage of the greatest train shed in America and, arguably, the world.
Early in the 20th century, the railroad provided the principle means of overland travel, the terrestrial complement to the golden age of ocean liners.
And, just as commercial airline travel would supplant ocean liners by mid-century, so too would the airways combine with automobiles and buses to render the railroad an antiquated means of long-distance transportation.
By the 1960s, Penn Station had become a cathedral to a dead religion, its soaring, cavernous space an empty expanse of un-capitalized real estate. No longer the pink marble-columned gateway between the great Metropolis and the scale-less continent beyond, overseen by giant eagles of Vinalhaven granite sparkling in sunshine - Penn Station now moves only people, not their hearts and minds. What then can we learn from its surviving neighbor and contemporary just across town, now entering its centennial year and itself the survivor of 2 considerable demolition threats in the 1950's and 60's?
Completed between 1903 and 1913 in a collaboration between Warren and Wetmore and the lesser-known Reed and Stern, Grand Central may lack some of the spatial complexity of the early Penn Station, but celebrates in elegant Beaux Arts formality the transformative possibilities of journey by rail.

And yet, for all its monumental vastness, its finery and craftsmanship and sheer luxuriant gorgeousness - all of it welcome and beguiling - a single element above all gives the totality of Grand Central its legible grace. At the very center of this elegiac spaciousness is an information kiosk that would fit within even the most modest studio apartment; a simple, graceful little rotunda of marble and glass supporting a four-faced brass and opal clock. It is a familiar face in a surging crowd, an eye-level exchange beneath a heavenly vault, and its presence asserts, so very gently, that the travelers who throng through this hall in their millions are really just so many individuals passing through time and space.
The proposed Moynihan Penn Station in New York City is a plan to provide a new transit station and related development at the site of the current Pennsylvania Station, the busiest train station in the country.
New Yorkers and architectural enthusiasts were outraged by the razing of Penn Station; however, selling the air rights to the seven-acre structure created a financial gain for the station, which was seeing too few rail passengers. Now, instead of Doric columns, passengers are greeted by a never-ending line of yellow taxi cabs and a large billboard announcing upcoming events at the Garden.
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. If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Ironically, both Pennsylvania Station and Henry Ford's Highland Park Model-T factory were completed within a year of one another - one, the world's single greatest expression of the pre-eminance of train travel and the other the author of its demise.
And so, the wrecking crews were summoned and one of America 's most iconic building gave way to the benumbing banality of Penn Plaza and a relocated Madison Square Garden. The sheer contrast between the enormity of the main concourse and this humble little structure lends a human scale to the million cubic feet of space and light and, in so doing, renders the room intimate, personal. Originally proposed more than 20 years ago and championed by former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the project as initially conceived, and modified repeatedly, was to transform the adjacent historic Farley Post Office building (located between 31st street and 33rd street, 8th avenue and 9th avenue) into a grand new train station. When you looked up, you could see the sublime Roman style architecture, the glass ceiling soaring 100 feet above your head.

The original building, built in 1910, was demolished in 1963 to make way for Penn Plaza and the fourth and current setting of Madison Square Garden. The demolition of the original structure was one of the reasons for the city's first architectural preservation statutes.
The complex is owned by Amtrak, but also offers services by Metropolitan Transit Authority, New Jersey Transit, and a Continental Airlines ticket booth.
Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Grand Central, New York City's two primary train stations separated by roughly 16 city blocks and 6 decades, the answer is as simple as it is elusive.
The basic functions of the station remained, of course, but had been relegated to a basement, as far removed from daylight and the romance of travel as is possible to imagine - a low-ceilinged, fluorescence-muted rat race of fast food vendors, plastic tourist memorabilia and anonymous travelers.
The current delivery model is for a real estate venture to participate in the redevelopment along with adjacent properties. New York's Pennsylvania Station used to be one of the largest indoor public spaces in the world. As a tradeoff, Penn Station received a new (smaller) underground station and 25 percent stake in Madison Square Garden.
600,000 passengers use the station every day, making Penn Station the busiest train station in North America.
Farley Post Office, rebuilding the existing Penn Station and constructing a new Madison Square Garden within Farley’s western Annex, easing crowds and substantially increasing access at Penn Station. The proposed public transportation improvements are to be subsidized by private development serving as a catalyst for commercial growth on Manhattan’s West Side.

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