Posts Tagged ‘Penn Station’

The 1940s tourist attractions of the “Penn Zone”

October 29, 2012

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.

A bird’s-eye view of Pennsylvania Station

January 17, 2009

Hard to believe the Pennsylvania Railroad got away with demolishing this 1910 McKim, Mead  and White beauty. (If they needed a big parcel of land, why didn’t they tear down the Port Authority Bus Terminal instead?)

But that’s what happened in 1963. Penn Station’s destruction subsequently ushered in an era of historic preservation.

pennstationpostcard 

View ore images of the old Penn Station—inside and outside— here.

It’s fun to stay at the YMCA

June 20, 2008

While leafing through a 1930s Daily News, I came across this ad for single rooms “for transient young men” at the YMCA’s William Sloane House. Intrigued, I did a little research. 

Turns out the 1600-room William Sloane Memorial WMCA, built in 1930 down the street from Penn Station, was a clean, safe, popular place for men to live upon first arriving in New York City. Soldiers frequently checked in; a military uniform acted as a free pass to stay in the 14-story building (not that 75 cents a night was going to break the bank back then).

This mid-century postcard of Sloane House comes with a handy neighborhood map.

By the 1980s, the building was mostly empty; in the early 1990s, only 20 percent of its rooms were occupied, mainly by students and tourists traveling on the cheap. The Y closed it for good in 1991. It is now an apartment building.


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