it, too, has the rails coming in beneath the fine, old Beaux Arts building, for which tunnels beneath the city were built, removing millions of cubic yards of earth. it, too, heralded and celebrated the new, electric railroad track with its electrified third rail fueling the engines without smoke or fire.
Grand Central Terminal was renovated in the 1990s to make way for modern shops, with better lighting, wider steps and platforms big enough to accommodate the burgeoning subway and commuter train system. Though it became dark and dirty throughout the 1970s and 1980s, falling into disrepair and misuse, in the 1990s it was renovated in a 4-year effort and now appears clean and new. For some reason, the loss of passenger traffic on the railroad during the 1960s did not affect Grand Central as much as it did Penn Station. Perhaps it was because Grand Central had a champion in Jacqueline Kennedy, who declared it a landmark in the 1960s.
Re-imagining Penn Station
When one wants to design a building to replace a useless structure which has replaced a grand old monument, what does one imagine? The original building can be the inspiration for a new, more useful structure to fill the space where the older buildings failed.
When the architects for the new Moynihan/Penn Station project were hired, they were inspired by the public, Moynihan and by their respect for the historical building which had once stood on that property, to recreate it. The only problem is that a train station today has a lot of traffic, and as gas prices soar, more and more people are using public transportation for long as well as short trips, traffic in and out of a train station is going to increase.
Unless the planners are extremely farsighted, they may neglect to account for an increase in public transportation which will demand (again) a large train terminal with ready access to tickets and the tracks beneath the ground. If the old post office is used for a terminal, it may not be sufficiently large enough to accommodate the crowds. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Penn Station could be recreated exactly as it was, perhaps with the addition of shops and concourses inspired by some of the better contemporary malls, to serve the original purpose of Pennsylvania Station? The new site can and will contain the two skyscrapers housing offices, and, with the addition of residential property nearby, the neighborhood will thrive.
The Pennsylvania Station in New York
Is like some vast basilica of old
That towers above the terror of the dark
As bulwark and protection to the soul.
Now people who are hurrying alone
And those who come in crowds from far away Pass through this great concourse of steel and stone
To trains, or else from trains out into day.
And as in great basilicas of old
The search was ever for a dream of God,
So here the search is still within each soul
Some seed to find to root in earthly so,
Some seed to find that sprouts a holy tree
To glorify the earth - and you - and me.
Bradford, S. America's Queen: A Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. New York: Viking. 2000.
Droege, J.A. Passenger Terminals and Trains. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1916.
Harwood, H.H., Jr., Royal Blue Line. Sykesville, MD: Greenberg Publishing, 1990,
Hughes, L. "Pennsylvania Station." The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Ed.: Arnold Rampersad. New York: Vintage Books, Random House. 1995.
Jackson, K.T., ed. Encyclopedia of New York City, 1990.
Jonnes, J. Conquering Gotham: A Gilded Age Epic - the Construction of Penn Station and Its Tunnels. New York: Viking Press, 2007.
Low, W. Old Penn Station. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1st Edition, 2007.
Meistersinger, T.V. "Keep an Eagle Eye Out for Penn Station Eagles, " Gothamist. 4 Sep 2007.
Moynihan, D.P. "Moynihan to Help Recreate NYC Pennsylvania Station." Reuters, 27 Aug 2002.
Schlichting, K.C. Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and Architecture in New York City. New York: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
See lots of photos of the original building details at http://www.nyc-architecture.com/GON/GON004.htm.
Langston Hughes. "Pennsylvania Station." The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Ed.: Arnold Rampersad. New York: Vintage Books, Random House. 1995.
Kenneth T. Jackson, ed. Encyclopedia of New York City, p. 891.
J.A. Droege, Passenger Terminals and Trains. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1916.
W. Low, Old Penn Station. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1st Edition, 2007.
Toby von Meistersinger, "Keep an Eagle Eye Out for Penn Station Eagles, " Gothamist. 4 Sep 2007.
H.H. Harwood, Jr., Royal Blue Line. Sykesville, Md.: Greenberg Publishing, 1990, p. 155.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Moynihan to Help Recreate NYC Pennsylvania Station." Reuters, 27 Aug 2002.
Jill Jonnes, Conquering Gotham: A Gilded Age Epic - the Construction of Penn Station and Its Tunnels. New York: Viking Press, 2007.
Kurt C. Schlichting. Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and Architecture in New York City. New York: Johns Hopkins University Press, 12 Mar 2001.