Posts Tagged ‘old 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.

What was lost when we lost Penn Station

May 17, 2012

The demolition of the old Pennsylvania Station in October 1963 is considered a city tragedy, a “monumental act of vandalism,” as The New York Times put it at the time.

It was also a catalyst for the preservation movement that’s saved countless buildings from also ending up in pieces in a Meadowlands dump.

Photos of the 1910 Beaux-Arts masterpiece are in no short supply. But have you ever really looked at them and contrasted the images with the Penn Station of today?

Here’s the original Penn Station main waiting room, above in 1911, inspired by glorious ancient Roman baths.

Imagine waiting for your train there, next to one of six Doric columns under a 150-foot high ceiling, with sunlight pouring through the lunette windows.

Here’s the Penn Station waiting room today, above right. Hmmm.

Then there’s the main concourse, where passengers would go to buy tickets before descending the stairs to their trains.

The original was made of glass and steel, reminiscent of train sheds in Europe.

This is it above, in 1962, a year before it was torn down.

Here’s the concourse now, an ugly blur of fluorescent lights.

“Night” at the Brooklyn Museum

April 7, 2009

The statue below, called Night, used to guard one of the entrances to the original Penn Station, a glorious figure greeting millions of commuters every year. Retired now, she sits in the outdoor sculpture garden at the Brooklyn Museum. 


 Night used to be paired with a similar figure, Day. Four sets of Night and Day were created by sculptor Adolph Weinman in 1910 for Penn Station; each pink-granite pair framed the sides of a clock.

So how did she end up in Brooklyn? When Penn Station was torn down in 1963, much of the art and architectural details that made the station such a jewel went straight to landfill. Night was soon retrieved from a dump in the Meadowlands. The whereabouts of her partner, Day, are unclear.

Another set of Night and Day, along with some original Penn Station eagles, somehow made their way to a park in Kansas City, Missouri. The photo below, with Night on the right, provides a better idea of what the originals looked like.