Page B1.1 . 23 July 2003                     
ArchitectureWeek - Building Department
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The Demolition of Penn Station

by Norman McGrath

New York's Pennsylvania Station (1910) by McKim, Mead & White was one of the great engineering and architectural feats of the early 20th century in the United States. The station remained a civic landmark until its demolition in the 1960s, during which a young photographer documented its demise. Editor

Certain events stand out in the life of any great city. They take a variety of forms. Some are natural in origin floods, heat waves, and snowstorms, for example. Others are social, more unpredictable, and at times more difficult to accept: the removal of Pennsylvania Station is clearly in this category.

I was born in London, a city of major railroad stations, exciting places that rivaled cathedrals for sheer size and grandeur. I remember massive, streamlined steam locomotives from before World War II and viewed railroad stations as a permanent component of the urban scene.

I came to New York City from Dublin in 1956, a structural engineer by profession, but a serious amateur photographer. In the early 1960s I found myself jobless and felt the timing was right to make a career change. I bought myself a 4x5 view camera and set out to teach myself its idiosyncrasies.

Two or three months later, I had a call from a former associate who had heard of my intended career switch and wondered if I was "interested in eating in the meantime." The upshot was that I went to work as an engineer for Wayman C. Wing on a part-time basis while I made the transition from one profession to another. My new office was in the Hotel Pennsylvania, right across from Penn Station as its demolition began.   >>>

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This article is reprinted from New York's Pennsylvania Stations by Hilary Ballon. Copyright 2002 by Hilary Ballon. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.



ArchWeek Image

Pennsylvania Station by McKim, Mead & White in 1910.
Photo: Courtesy W.W. Norton

ArchWeek Image

The train concourse facing the 33rd Street entrance as demolition begins. The steel frame of the new ceiling is beginning to encroach on the right.
Photo: Norman McGrath


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