The Old Pennsylvania Railroad Station
Also known as “Penn Station”
Collection of the New-York Historical Society
Old Pennsylvania Station, also known as Penn Station, was a historic train station located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. It was designed by the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White and opened to the public in 1910. The station was one of the most impressive examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the United States and served as a transportation hub for millions of people over the years. Unfortunately, the original Pennsylvania Station was demolished in 1963, a decision that many have come to regret.
History of Old Pennsylvania Station
The construction of Old Pennsylvania Station began in 1904 and was completed in 1910. The station covered an area of nearly eight acres and was one of the largest train stations in the world at the time. The station was designed by the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, which was known for its Beaux-Arts style of architecture. The firm was also responsible for designing many other notable buildings, including the Washington Square Arch and the New York Life Building.
Old Pennsylvania Station was designed to be a grand entrance to New York City, with its elegant columns, massive arched windows, and soaring ceilings. The station’s main waiting room, known as the “Pennsylvania Room,” was one of the largest public spaces in the world, measuring 277 feet long, 109 feet wide, and 150 feet high. The room was adorned with marble columns, coffered ceilings, and chandeliers, and featured a large clock in the center.
The station was also home to a number of other amenities, including restaurants, a post office, a telegraph office, and a newsstand. The station’s concourse was located beneath the waiting room and featured 21 tracks and 11 platforms, making it one of the busiest transportation hubs in the country.
The Demolition of Old Pennsylvania Station
Despite its grandeur, Old Pennsylvania Station was not immune to the economic pressures of the mid-20th century. By the 1950s, the station was in need of repairs and renovations, and its owner, the Pennsylvania Railroad, was struggling financially. In an effort to cut costs and generate revenue, the railroad proposed demolishing the station and replacing it with a new office complex and sports arena.
The plan was met with widespread opposition from preservationists, architects, and the general public, who saw Old Pennsylvania Station as an irreplaceable piece of New York City’s architectural heritage. Despite these objections, the demolition of Old Pennsylvania Station began in 1963, and the station was completely dismantled by 1966.
The Legacy of Old Pennsylvania Station
The demolition of Old Pennsylvania Station is now widely regarded as a turning point in the preservation movement in the United States. The loss of such a grand and historic building sparked a national conversation about the importance of preserving the country’s architectural heritage. The outcry over the demolition of Old Pennsylvania Station led to the creation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which was tasked with protecting historic buildings and sites throughout the city.
Today, a small piece of Old Pennsylvania Station remains as a reminder of its former glory. The station’s original waiting room, which was dismantled and moved to Baltimore, Maryland, now serves as the main hall of the Baltimore Convention Center. The waiting room was carefully restored and reopened in 1979, and it remains a beloved example of Beaux-Arts architecture.
Old Pennsylvania Station was a magnificent building that represented the best of American architecture and engineering. Its demolition was a tragedy that sparked a national conversation about the importance of preserving historic buildings and sites. Today, the legacy of Old Pennsylvania Station lives on as a reminder of the power of architecture to shape our cities and our lives.