Some short history tonight as I’m not feeling 100 percent: Penn Station, the original version, has been in the news lately as last week marked the 50th anniversary of the march to save the station. As David Dunlap detailed in The Times last week, the upper crust of Manhattan along with city historians marched, albeit futilely, against the plan to demolish Penn Station. While they failed in their efforts, many credit the Penn Station movement with saving Grand Central a few years later. New York would not wipe two historic train stations from its streets in as many years.
Today, we mourn the loss of Penn Station as an architectural calamity. After all, the current iteration is an eyesore underneath an arena. But the old version suffered from a capacity too small to meet the demand. Ultimately, something had to give, and out of its destruction arose the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, both a barrier to urban growth and a nod to the city’s history. Whether that’s a net positive is heavily debated today.
Meanwhile, bits of Penn Station, as Jim O’Grady discovered earlier this week, survive. Entryways, design elements and staircases survived the destruction, and one day, if the money shows up Moynihan Station could become the city’s next grand train depot, welcoming visitors in a more regal manner than today’s Penn Station does. The city sure does spend a lot of time living down the legacy and fighting for the future of train stations that often seem to prioritize aesthetics over functionality.