The Rise and Fall of Penn Station

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The original Penn Station (Library of Congress)

Producer and director Randall MacLowry discusses his documentary “The Rise and Fall of Penn Station.” Penn Station opened November 27, 1910, and was a grand, beautiful building. But in 1961, the financially strapped Pennsylvania Railroad announced that it had sold the air rights above Penn Station, and the company tore down the train station to build Madison Square Garden. In response to Penn Station’s destruction, New York City established the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Grand Central Terminal was designated a historic landmark in 1967, sparing it from the sad fate of Penn Station. “The Rise and Fall of Penn Station” premieres on PBS February 18 at 9 pm.


Randall MacLowry

Comments [9]

Native New Yorker since 1952

Despicable what happened there.

A travesty.

A great loss to the city.

I guess those people never got the memo that said,

" It's a sin to destroy a classic "


Feb. 15 2014 03:37 PM
marilyn from Walking distance to the St Albans LIRR Station

Look at thge floor in that photo! It is made up of a series of large squares. Each square is made up of an orderly array of glass circles (were they milk bottle bottoms?). What a joy it was to walk over them, enjoying th ambience of this magnificent railroad station (it was never stuffy and uncomfortable), listening to the announcements of the trains and their destinations while dreaming of riding on one of those trains to just about anywhere. By the time I was old enough to do more than just dream about buying a ticket all of that was gone. The only other railroad station that I ever thought was a joy to walk through was the one in Utica. I wonder if it is still the same.

Feb. 12 2014 09:35 PM

Penn Station is the only building supposed to be of architectural interest for which I've only ever seen pictures of the interior. Are there no exterior photographs? (This page continues that trend...)

Feb. 12 2014 09:20 AM
Estelle from Brooklyn

I remember being in the old Penn Station to meet someone. One imagined Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers suddenly appearing and dancing.

Feb. 11 2014 12:59 PM

Hmmmm....The WTC buildings that we lost on 9/11 were said to also have been very expensive to maintain and hard to keep fully occupied. Might they, too, have been demolished to make way for something more cost-effective by, say, 2025?

Feb. 11 2014 12:58 PM
tom from astoria

.I always pause to admire the stairs and thick brass railings that still exist from the original Penn Station. Isn't the great simplicity of the great old Penn Station a large part of its quality? Today, we'd have to say no to all those shops and food vendors like Starbucks Pizza Hut, Barnes and Noble It seems that a large open space with iron and glass wouldn't be so expensive to rebuild.

Feb. 11 2014 12:48 PM
RUCB_Alum from Central New Jersey

Rumor has it there are 10,0000 strip malls across America now made economically infeasible by the advent of Internet shopping. It could be the largest reclaiming of suburban spaces this nation has ever known.

Feb. 11 2014 12:47 PM
Robert Plautz from New York, N.Y.

Mr. Lopate,

Could you ask Mr. MacLowry whether there is any evidence, directly or indirectly, that Robert Moses was involved in the destruction of Penn Station. Moses is bland for a lot, rightly so. But he sometimes seems to get lumped in with the destruction of Penn Station. I believe that the destruction of Penn Station was just a sign of the times. There was a belief in this country in the early 1960s that we were on top of the world. We could destroy anything and we would simply replace it what something better. After all, we almost lost Carnegie Hall at about the same time.

Feb. 11 2014 12:40 PM
antonio from baySide

"One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat."

From the photos I have seen of Penn, it really does convey a divine sort of sensibility. Was it really that expansive? Could you compare it to Grand Central? Or is it apples and oranges?

Was there EVER any thought of just rebuilding it? I would throw in a few bucks for that! :)

Feb. 11 2014 10:44 AM

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