PHOTOS: On This Day in Transportation History, New York's Penn Station Opened

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - 10:55 AM

Penn Station, sometime before 1915 (Library of Congress)

(Want to hear what announcements at the original Penn Station sounded like? The above audio, which comes from the WNYC Archives, was recorded sometime in the 1950s.)

On November 27, 1910, one of New York City's original architectural jewels opened its doors to train passengers.

"The first train was sent out of the station through the 'tubes under the Hudson River at midnight," the New York Times reported, "although three months before trains had been sent out of the terminal over the Long Island Road, under the East River."

The original Penn Station was demolished in 1963, its columns, steel, windows, marble walls dumped in New Jersey swampland. But at least one piece of it remains behind, hiding in plain sight.

Check out some photos of the original structure.

Penn Station, circa 1910 (Library of Congress)


The exterior of Penn Station in 1920 (Library of Congress)

Interior, taken before 1915 (Library of Congress image)

The interior.

Crowds awaiting Reverend Billy Sunday's appearance, probably in 1917 (Library of Congress)

Penn Station in 1962, one year before its demolition (Cervin Robinson/Library of Congress)

Waiting for a train, 1942 (Library of Congress)

(Library of Congress)


Comments [12]

Jonathan Gilchrist from Vermont

This station was also the location for "The 7 Year Itch". I remember that station when young. I remember them tearing it down too. That went on during the 1964 worlds fair. I thought they would build some very Nuetra-esq (sic) modern structure of glass and steel, instead we got a seedy subway station, a neon nightmare. The subway stations in Los Angeles looks nicer than Penn Station.

I might also add that the same came real close to Grand Central's fate. I believe the original plan for The Pan Am building was to build right over Grand Central Station. But conversationalist's were organized by then. It escaped the vandalism done to Pennsylvania Station. What an historic blunder!

Dec. 11 2014 11:16 AM

The old Penn Station is briefly featured in a scene in Preston Sturges' The Palm Beach Story (1942).

Feb. 11 2014 07:32 PM
Noah M from Brooklyn

"What were they thinking…?"

The station had become too costly to maintain, it was aging and repair needs were growing faster than they could be addressed. At the time, it was up to the railroads to pay for their own stations, and rail travel had dropped enough for Pennsylvania Railroad to be in trouble in this regard.

Dec. 03 2013 11:01 PM
J Fleming

I experienced this amazing place several times in the 50's, and witnessed its demolition the 60's. Seeing these photos, my anger is almost as fresh and real as it was then.

Nov. 30 2013 11:49 AM
Gregg from Astoria Queens

I agree with all the above. If I had two things to change, they'd both be one of saving Penn Station. And then by deleting MSG. The whole thing is a bigger abomination then the thing above the Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn. So far the cheap housing has not been built.

What we need is to convince Amtrak to restore the long distance trains that once ran out of GCT back there. There just isn't enough room for them in the hole in the ground that Penn is now.

Nov. 30 2013 12:41 AM
McNamara from Long Island

What where they thinking? And why did so many stay quiet when this beautiful building was demolished and replaced by a cave.

Nov. 29 2013 05:13 PM
bobby bell from queens

this is so cool, last night my wife sat down to watch the move 7 year itch , and in the open seen there at a train station and i was like it that shoot on a set and now i find out that that set was the old penn, station now i don't know why it was torn down but now we see just what we lost
that's a shame ...

Nov. 29 2013 11:13 AM
J Tomczyk

If you're sick of the present Penn Station, lobby your congressmen and officials to get the second phase of Moynihan Station ( conversion of the Farley Post Office across the street ) committed to.

Nov. 28 2013 11:24 AM
greb from Cherry Hill NJ

another negligent almost criminal act by ignorant and greedy CEOs

Nov. 28 2013 11:13 AM
laura miller from north bergen

What wonderful photos! I'd always heard of the tragic, misguided destruction of the old Penn Station, but the photos really convey just how much more wonderful the old structure was, especially with the light, high ceilings, and arches. Waiting around in the current station is an awful experience no matter how many cheap food places they put in it, and the underground levels make one feel like a rodent. So much for progress. Thanks, Kate Hinds, for these images.

Nov. 27 2013 07:21 PM
J Hertzberg from Washington DC

Among all the major stops on the northeast corridor, New York Penn station stands out as the most cramped, ugly and unpleasant. This is obvious to anyone who rides the train between cities. When you get off at Washington, Philadelphia, or even Newark, you realize immediately that the station where you got on is an embarrassment to the greatest city in the country.

Nov. 27 2013 02:38 PM
Frances from Albuquerque

How tragic this was torn down for the horrible hole in the earth it has become.

Nov. 27 2013 02:25 PM

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