Magnificent pictures of New York's old Penn Station before it was demolished, 1910-1963

During the first half of the twentieth century, the original Pennsylvania Station was one of New York City's grandest landmarks, a castle in the middle of Manhattan. These photos take readers back in time to the height of Penn Station's glory.

From construction to destruction, we visit the station's bustling, light-filled crowd, its ornate statues, and its dedicated people. Although this impressive building only remained from 1910 to 1963, the memory of its majestic presence in the heart of New York City lives on today.

The story begins in the late 1890s when Pennsylvania Railroad leaders Alexander Cassatt and Samuel Rea dare to pursue two feasts. First, they would lay track across the turbulent Hudson and East Rivers to reach Manhattan, which had become a global center of commerce. He was a visionary, because tunneling was a concept few had heard of.

Second, they would build a monumental station in the center of one of New York's most infamous, corrupt, and impoverished neighborhoods. It will be a station that will do more than just transport passengers. This will benefit the public.

For the passer-by, rich or poor, it was as if Rome had been brought to his backyard. It was a station that would inspire the world, even if only for half a century.

Inspired by the Gare du Quai d'Orsay in Paris and the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, the planners of Penn Station sought to uplift the society. The grand architecture transformed a point of destination into a place of wonder.

Occupying two city blocks from Seventh Avenue to Eighth Avenue and 31st to 33rd Streets in Midtown Manhattan, the original Penn Station building was designed by McKim, Mead & White and completed in 1910. The station enabled direct rail access to New York City. South for the first time.

Covering an area of ​​about 8 acres (3.2 ha), it was 788 feet (240 m) long along the side roads and 432 feet (132 m) along the main avenues. The land lot occupied approximately 800 feet (240 m) along 31st and 33rd Streets.

Its head house and train shed were considered a masterpiece of the Beaux-Arts style and one of New York City's great architectural works. The station had 11 platforms serving 21 tracks, in the same layout as the current Penn Station.

The original building was one of the first stations to include separate waiting rooms for incoming and outgoing passengers, and when built, it was one of the largest public spaces in the city.

The original structure was made of 14,000 m3 of pink granite, 1,700 m3 of interior stone, 27,000 short tons of steel, 48,000 short tons of brick and 30,000 light bulbs.

The average height of the building above the street was 69 feet (21 m), although its maximum height was 153 feet (47 m). About 25 acres (10 ha) of track surrounded Penn Station. At the time of Penn Station's completion, The New York Times called it "the largest building in the world built at one time".

Doric order of the classical Greek style. In turn, these pillars were modeled on sites such as the Acropolis of Athens. The rest of the façade was built on St Peter's Square in Vatican City as well as the Bank of England headquarters.

The main waiting room was inspired by Roman structures such as the Baths of Caracalla, Diocletan and Titus. The room measured 314 feet 4 inches (95.81 m) long, 108 feet 8 inches (33.12 m) wide and 150 feet (46 m) long. Additional waiting rooms for men and women, each measuring 100 by 58 feet (30 x 18 m), were on either side of the main waiting room.

The room approximates the scale of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The lower walls were of travertine, while the upper walls were articulated in a steel structure wrapped in plaster, decorated to resemble the lower walls. Travertine was sourced from Campagna, Italy.

The roof was supported by Corinthian columns, which stood 59.5 feet (18.1 m) tall from the top of the pedestal to the top of the capitals.

Above the walls of the waiting room were three semicircular windows; Each had a radius of 38 feet 4 inches (11.68 m). Artist Jules Guerin was commissioned to paint six murals for the Penn Station waiting room; Each of his works was over 100 feet (30 m) long.

Upon completion of the station, the Pennsylvania Railroad's total project cost for the station and associated tunnels was $114 million (equivalent to $2.5 billion in 2021), according to the Interstate Commerce Commission report.

When Penn Station opened, it had a capacity of 144 trains per hour on 21 tracks and 11 platforms. At the start of operations, 1,000 trains were scheduled every week.

Penn Station had begun to decline in the 1930s. The station was the busiest during World War II: in 1945, over 100 million passengers traveled through Penn Station. The station's decline soon came with the beginning of the jet age and the construction of the Interstate Highway System.

The PRR recorded its first annual operating loss in 1947, and intercity rail passenger volume continued to decline dramatically over the next decade. By the 1950s, its ornate pink granite exterior was covered with grime.

A refurbishment in the late 1950s saw some of the grand plastic covers and Lester C. A new ticket office designed by Tichy blocked the expansive central hallway with "clamshells". Architectural critic Lewis Mumford wrote in The New Yorker in 1958 that "nothing further can be done that would damage the station".

In 1962 there were plans to demolish the terminal and build an entertainment venue, Madison Square Garden, on top of it. The new railway station will be completely underground and will have facilities like air conditioning and fluorescent lighting.

At the time, an argument was made in favor of the demolition of the old Penn Station given that the cost of maintaining the structure had become prohibitive. Its grand scale led the PRR to devote a "fate" to its maintenance, and the exterior of the main house was somewhat worn out.

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