Out With the Old, In With the New
The times, they are a’changing. This has always been true, and it’s also always felt like people are ready to forsake the past for what they think is going to be a bright new future.
Unfortunately, whenever this happens in the world of architecture, greedy developers tend to get overeager and tear down beautiful and historic landmarks without remorse. We’ve seen this happen around the world too many times, but luckily, more people and organizations are starting to stand up against new construction in order to preserve the beautiful monuments of the past.
New York Governor Cuomo announced this week the State’s audacious plans to move forward with a complete renovation of Penn Station, one of the East Coast’s busiest transportation hubs and, as any commuter can tell you, a dark and suffocating nightmare for travelers. It wasn’t always this way, and a hundred years ago, the original Penn Station matched the beauty of Grand Central.
Unfortunately, like so many beautiful architectural works before it, the original Penn Station was destroyed due to changing fashions and an obsession with modernization.
See other iconic monuments we’ve destroyed and lost forever.
A Word to the Wise
Regarding the preservation of landmarks, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis once said,
“Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe… this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won’t all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes.”
Public interest after the untimely demolition of New York’s original Pennsylvania Station helped save other structures such as Grand Central Terminal, for which the former First Lady made the above remark. A foyer there is now named in her honor.
Penn Station, NYC (destroyed 1963)
New York City’s original Pennsylvania Station was built as a masterpiece in the Beaux-Arts style, designed after the Gare d’Orsay (today’s Musée d’Orsay) in Paris. The beautiful station saw its peak during WWII with over 100 million passengers passing through in 1945, but the new highway system and popularity of jet travel severely damaged the hub’s practicality.
Plans for the new Penn Station, and eventually Madison Square Garden and Penn Plaza, were released in 1962. Its demolition that year led to outrage, and it also prompted stricter conservation and public interest in preserving landmarks. Regarding the new station remodeled underground in its place, architectural historian Vincent Scully said, “One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat.”
Recently-unveiled plans to rebuild Penn Station show promise for a brighter, above-ground structure that could return the station to its former glory as well as unite it with the beautiful Farley Post Office on 8th Avenue.