I realize many of the statues have been salvaged but at the time...did PRR not try to sell them to potential buyers?  They seemed so hasty to just dump them in a landfill.  

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Originally Posted by Mike W.:

I realize many of the statues have been salvaged but at the time...did PRR not try to sell them to potential buyers?  They seemed so hasty to just dump them in a landfill.  

Most likely, because the Pennsy was in such financial straits at the time, it just wasn't worth the time and effort to sell those statues. Whatever the price those statues might have fetched, it wouldn't have made a dent in the financial deficit they were under.

I know I've seen pictures of artifacts from Penn station in their new locations. I don't have any of the sites bookmarked. I'd guess a web search would be in order.

 

Here is a NY Times article on one piece.

And here is an article about bits and pieces that still exist at the current station.

Last edited by C W Burfle

I would image that since the property was sold it wasn't PRR's right to do anything about it if they wanted to. The new owners didn't care.

 

There is a very detailed photo's of the tear down and how much was lost. I don't know where the links are for the video and or pictures of it. But it was the last straw for many and lead to the historic preservation movement to prevent such a tragedy. I just don't remember who documented this.

 

Jamie

 

PBS did a wonderfully done documentary on Penn Station. It covers the building and destruction of the station and everything in between. If I can remember correctly the PRR only sold the "air rights" to the property. That way they could still own the property underground where all the platforms and tracks were so they could still operate a station there. Only underground. Unfortunately this lead to the above ground destruction of the station to make way for a more modern revenue driven MSG. which was not officialy owned by the PRR. It was a tragedy to mankinds history. It would be equel to the destruction of all the roman colosseums. Anyway, to find the documentary online, just search "the rise and fall of penn station PBS special" and you should find the webpage. I did try to copy and paste the link but for some reason I can't copy and pasre on the forum witile useing my tablet.

Tinplate Art,

I agree with you!!!

The demolition of the GREAT PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD STATION, was nothing but for the sake of GREED!!!!
Ralph

 

...was nothing but for the sake of GREED

 

not greed, but the desperate act of desperate people, after years of poor business decisions.

 

had they only known that in the 21st Century, passenger rail traffic in & out of NY Penn is close to an all-time high (except during wartime).

 

John,

Desperation, maybe?

But, a lot of the so called Big decisions, especially regarding N.Y.C., is mostly GREED!!!!
Ralph

As Fargus said, the Penn only sold the air rights above the underground portions of the stadium, where MSG and the Penn plaza buildings are located. I believe MSG is actually owned by the city in that they have basically given the current managers of MSG (Cablevision) notice that their right to use the place will end in (now) less than 10 years,supposedly to build a new station. Penn Station itself is owned by Amtrak after it took over the Penn Central.

 

As to why Penn Central was knocked down, there were a lot of reasons. As people have noted, the Pennsylvania Rail Road was in deep trouble, and politically rail travel, including commuter rail, was seen as an anachronism in the days of the ascendant automobile. You had people like Robert Moses running around, who saw cities basically as places to build highways through so people could travel from suburb to suburb (and he had a backstage hand in the demolition of Penn Station, he hated rail and mass transit), so when it came to Penn Station, what people in power saw was an aging structure that (in their eyes) soon would serve no purpose, they had visions of a NYC where businesses all went out to the suburbs, where people could drive to their wonderful office complexes on highways that could more than handle the traffic (!) (I am not kidding, this is my paraphrasing an actual report of urban planners), and NYC would become basically a place where the well off, who would have cars, would live.

 

There were other factors as well. Sonny Werblin (later the owner of the NY Jets who signed Joe Namath), was a show biz kind of guy, and he was the owner of the old Garden, and he wanted a new showplace that he could say "was the newest and best around", so he pushed for it; In the early 60's, there was a major slowdown in the building trades, and the builders unions and the construction companies like Turner and others were looking for big projects to revitalize their prospects, and I think it was Tishman Speyer or one of the big management companies that wanted to build the office buildings now called Penn Plaza, they saw gold there, so there was significant public pressure on Albany to have this project go through. More importantly, most people, other than a relatively small handful of city planners and lovers of public architecture, didn't really care (until the station was knocked down and they saw how dreadful the new Penn Station was). Keep in mind around the same time as Penn Station that Harry Helmsley was going to knock down Carnegie Hall to put up a drab office building (if it weren't for Isaac Stern and a handful of very influential, wealthy people, it would have been destroyed),and even after Penn Station, Grand Central might have been knocked down if some influential people, including Jackie Kennedy, hadn't mobilized to stop it (NYC didn't not have a landmarks preservation law until several years after Penn was knocked down). 

 

It all added up to a tragedy, the only good that really came out of it was that people suddenly started understanding that not everything that is proposed as 'change' is done for the right reasons. 

I am extremely skeptical that a new Penn Station will be built. I don't think the funding is there.  I really hope it happens, but they are going to have to figure out a way to fund it, given the kind of businesses in NYC that depend on people commuting to their jobs, and hotels and the tourist business that might do well if we have decent rail travel to NYC, kind of like the business improvement districts where businesses self tax to pay to clean up areas. Reputedly Amtrak is serious about the gateway project, including new tunnels, maybe a public/private consortium would work. 

Last edited by OGR CEO-PUBLISHER

The demolition of Penn Station was referred to as " Arcitectual Rape". The new York City Landmarks Preservation Corporation was formed and came into being after the significance of what happened was realized.

The same fate was laying in wait for Grand Central Terminal had this devastation not have been stopped. We lost so many magnificent structures.

nate

Anyone interested in reading about Penn Station might like, The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station, by Lorraine Diehl. The are several good books out there and this one is one of the best. 

 

Tom

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Last edited by MNCW

"The Destruction of Penn Station" by Barbara and Peter Moore, published in 2000, is filled with photos of the process.

What a fantastic program.  So sad.  Almost an insult to all the men spent all those years who built that engineering marvel. 

Penn Station>MSG. I just watched the program - it hurts me to see that magnificent place destroyed. At least the tunnels survived and still function as designed and Grand Central Station survives. What a shame to destroy this place. 

One of the eagles from Penn Station sits on the campus of Niagara University. Niagara Fall NY.  The Niagara Purple Eagles.

I think NYP should never have been built where it was, and and was an overbuilt facility.

At least GCT was built with traveller traffic flow in mind.  

As a young boy I recall visiting Pennsylvania station. The first half block was a beautiful stone structure but the other half block was a high glass ceiling atrium where the steps to the tracks were.  There was also a bus depot on the 8th Ave side. You would enter and go up the steps by the Greek columns on 7th Ave walk through some nice corridors/ halls and arrive in the massive glass ceiling area. It was a sight to behold and it could never be duplicated. It should have never been torn down.

The good news is that Monihan station being built in the old Farley Post office building was designed by the same architectural firm and the exterior will look a lot like old Pennsylvania Station.

I think NYP should never have been built where it was, and and was an overbuilt facility.

At least GCT was built with traveller traffic flow in mind.  

Penn Station was as well, the current Penn Station bares little to no resemblance to the original in terms of flow, the current design is a rabbit warren designed by moles on drugs. The original Penn Station had two different sets of subway lines available to it (granted, the subways came after it was built, the 7th avenue line in the teens and the IND 8th ave in the 20s), plus it straddled two different major thoroughfares. Comparing the current Penn Station to Grand Central isn't fair . Had Grand Central been knocked down, as almost happened, it likely would be like Penn Station today. The original Penn Station was one of the busiest train stations in the world and served that well, it handled traveler flow pretty well.

Penn Station was lost because the railroad was bankrupt and looking for any source of money (and Penn Station at the time it was destroyed needed a lot of work, and likely was a maintenance burden), it was a time when a lot of people assumed trains, whether commuter trains or long distance trains, were a thing  of the past (the car was still seen as freedom and when Robert Moses still had plans to turn NYC into a giant highway system), and also most people didn't pay attention to historical buildings being lost, lot of people were big on progress. Add to that egos, political considerations (the MSG/ Penn Towers project and the demolition brought construction jobs during a slump in construction amid a recession).  They also didn't see the obvious, that with the movement to the suburbs as part of the post WWII boom commuting was going to become a major player at Penn Station, they figured the replacement would suffice until the LIRR disappeared, and likely long distance trains and the NJ trains that used the station back then would be gone, too...and that didn't happen, commuter rail boomed as the burbs grew, Amtrak kept going , the car in many ways choked itself, and modern times have been left with the consequences (Penn Station is one of the busiest commuter hubs in the world today). Grand Central was almost lost the same way, it wasn't until the early 70's that a court finally ruled that the landmark preservation law was legal and they had the authority to landmark it, a more conservative court very likely would have said that the city couldn't do that. 

Many of the columns and the interior and exterior statuary was unceremoniously dumped in an area along Penhorn Creek, east of Secaucus Rd. and north of the former PRR main line, in Secaucus, NJ.

Most of it became covered over during subsequent development of the area.

A number of years ago, I read an online piece by an amateur archaeologist who had discovered the whereabouts of the lost dump site and was in the process of organizing an entity to salvage a number of significant pieces and find appropriate homes for them. 

I never saw any follow-up to the original posts.

Here is a link to a famous photo of the dump site when the remains of the station were first placed there.

I believe the author identified this copse of trees as the place where he discovered the ruins.

 

Last edited by Nick Chillianis

By and large, the US has always been a forward-looking society working under the premise that new = better/old = worthless.

 

@Mike W. posted:

Yet Europe takes national pride in preserving history.

not all of europe! If this were the case the Greeks would have rebuilt the Parthenon! The roman colliseum would have been restored. Etc.

In Europe they do cherish the past, otherwise the Parthenon would be a parking lot and the site of the Colliseum would be a strip mall.  Rome fell almost 1500 years ago, the Parthenon was built 2500 years ago and was destroyed by idiots. Houses in Europe are often 500,600 years old, we just don't have the history they do. Plus there has been the attitude that new is better, though these days they have figured out that old buildings bones provide a much better experience renovated then torn down *shrug*. 

That’s a great read. My mom’s family grew up in Bergen Hill Communities. My Uncles used to talk about their young adventures to Snake Hill

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