Posted on February 17, 2014
Original Pennsylvania Station (New York)
The current Penn Station may be a charmless catacomb of labyrinthine low-ceiling hallways, but New York’s first Penn Station was a lavish masterpiece of the Beaux Arts style.
The original facility’s domed ceilings, soaring archways and handsome columns welcomed more than 100 million passengers each year during the station’s golden era in the mid-1940s.
But by the end of the 1950s, the dawn of the Jet Age and the birth of the Interstate Highway System took a heavy toll on visitor numbers.
Plans for the new Penn Plaza and Madison Square Garden were announced in 1962, and a year later, the original Penn Station was knocked to the ground to make room for a smaller facility underground.
The demolition of Penn Station in 1963 was not without controversy.
The New York Times questioned at the time how the city would “permit this monumental act of vandalism against one of the largest and finest landmarks of its age of Roman elegance.”
The whole affair is regularly cited as the catalyst for the modern historical preservation movement in the United States.
Within a decade of Penn Station’s demolition, Grand Central Terminal was protected under New York City’s new Landmarks Preservation Act.