The 1940s tourist attractions of the “Penn Zone”

If you think the streets around Penn Station are crowded with out-of-towners now, imagine how jammed they must have been in the 1940s.

Back then, this was the “Penn Zone,” according to this vintage postcard, a stretch of Midtown brimming with massive hotels and must-see sites for tourists.


Some are still here, of course, such as the Empire State Building and Macy’s (number 8). But the original Penn Station (2) bit the dust in 1963, and the Hotel McAlpin (4) is now called Herald Towers and is a rental apartment building.

Gimbel’s (10) and Sak’s 34th Street (9) are ghosts. The Hotel New Yorker (6) keeps packing them in, while the Hotel Martinique (3) endured a tortured history as a 1980s welfare hotel before reopening as a Radisson.

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4 Responses to “The 1940s tourist attractions of the “Penn Zone””

  1. Al Says:

    I live in the former Hotel McAlpin and I’m baffled by the constant resurfacing of the idea, online, that this building is a co-op. It is currently called Herald Towers and its address is 50 W. 34th St. You can see by Googling these tidbits that it’s a plain old rental building, but one that tried to convert a few years ago and failed. I’m always excited to see mention of this building on your site. Keep up the titillating work!

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Thank you, and I fixed the co-op reference!

  3. James Says:

    I worked in Gimbel’s in the mid 1960’s as a part time sales trainer. It was a great moonliignt job and provided a 20% discount. I particularly liked the basement store and shopped for clothing for my wife and kids. I also liked the ground floor food stores.

    Gimbel’s was still family owned and had a pleasant environment.

    The security department had guard dogs which were let loose after hours to roam the store and seek out possible culprits.

  4. Joy Says:

    Hiya – LOVE this post, and all the other 1940s posts as well…and if I’m honest, your blog, too!

    Wondering if you can possibly help me out – I’m planning a 40th birthday scavenger hunt (of sorts), designed to make all my friends visit places of import throughout the decades…having them travel back in time, to end up in 1940s dress, out on the Intrepid til they close for the day.

    And then, everyone (in period dress) going out to a bar/restaurant popular in the 1940s. Do you have any suggestions of fun places at all that have that sort of history?

    Would LOVE to hear any input from you, I know it’s weird I’m just emailing out of the blue!

    Thanks!
    joy

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