In 1963, the grand old Pennsylvania Station was razed in order to make way for the monstrosity that is Madison Square Garden, and the current Penn Station. It was a dark time for preservationists, who fought to keep the early-1900s Beaux-Arts beauty standing, but it's a moment that led to the creation of the The Landmarks Preservation Commission, which formed in 1965.
The station's life was well-documented in those dramatic black & white photos you've seen, showing sun beams, suitcases, and romantic reunions with soldiers.
Its death, however, didn't get much visual documentation. Aaron Rose was one of the only photographers to capture its slow, crushing fall into rubble, and we've been given permission to share his photos here. The destruction began on October 28th, 1963 as the clock struck 9 a.m., and as "a light rain fell and picketers wearing black armbands watched silently, electric jackhammers began to destroy Penn Station. For the next three years, Penn Station was slowly demolished," the MCNY wrote, "the destruction was brutal and total."
Below you'll find some more info about the fallen beauty, but the most unusual fact is that you can still find some remains of Pennsylvania Station nearby. Just as original stones tested for Grand Central Terminal are still sitting in Van Cortlandt Park, pieces of the original Pennsylvania Station have landed in Secaucus, NJ. Some remains, including 16-ton decorative eagles and the 84 Doric columns, have been there since the mid-1960s. In 1964, the NY Times printed a huge photo of the wasteland that became home to the building's remains, and wrote:
"Some of the architectural splendor that distinguished the Pennsylvania Railroad Station in New York is now chunks of granite dumped here in the Secaucus Meadows. The Doric granite columns, four feet wide and 35 feet high, that for more than half a century graced the 31st and 33rd Street exteriors of the station are lying in disarray on several acres."
- Another piece of the original Station is still standing on 31st Street—this is the Penn Station Service Building, which was designed by Charles McKim and William Symmes Richardson (McKim, Mead & White), the site notes, and built in 1908.
- The original Pennsylvania Station, designed by Charles F. McKim, of McKim, Mead & White, opened on September 8th, 1910.
- It had the biggest waiting room in history.
- Natural light streamed through the iron and glass roof, which hovered 150-feet up.
- The structure sat upon a (highly valuable) nine-acre lot.
- On July 25th, 1961, The NY Times published an article about Madison Square Garden moving to the site of Pennsylvania Station, noting that the original station's waiting room would be part of the new facility. Of course, this didn't happen.
- Ada Louise Huxtable, architecture critic for the NY Times, wrote, "We are an impoverished society. It is a poor society indeed that can’t pay for these amenities; that has no money for anything except expressways to rush people out of our dull and deteriorating cities."
- Destruction began on October 28th, 1963, as protesters watched silently in the rain. In a farewell letter to the station, published in the NY Times, the destruction was called "a monumental act of vandalism." The writer also stated, "One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat."
- "The origins of the New York City Landmarks Law are often attributed to the loss of New York City’s Pennsylvania Station in 1963."
When the dust cleared, this is what happened next: