Pennsylvania Station (1910–1963)


January 21, 2022

Pennsylvania Station was a historic railroad station in New York City, named after the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), its original builder and operator. The station occupied an 8-acre (3.24 ha) lot bordered by Seventh and Eighth Avenues and 31st and 33rd Streets in Midtown Manhattan. As the station shared its name with several other stations in other cities, it was sometimes called New York's Pennsylvania Station or just Penn Station. The building was designed by McKim, Mead & White and was completed in 1910, allowing for the first time direct access to New York from the south. Its main lobby and the structure that covered the tracks were considered a masterpiece of the Beaux-Arts style and one of the greatest achievements of architecture in New York. The station had 11 platforms that were served by 21 tracks, roughly the same shape as the current Penn Station. The original building was one of the first stations to include separate waiting halls for arriving and departing passengers, standing out as some of the largest public spaces in the city. Passenger traffic began to decline after World War II, and in the 1950s, the Pennsylvania Railroad sold the property rights and downsized the railroad station. Beginning in 1963, the central hall and the structure covering the tracks were demolished, a loss that solidified the modern preservationist movement in the United States. Over the next six years, the underground concourses and waiting areas were heavily renovated, becoming the current Penn Station, while Madison Square Garden and Pennsylvania Plaza were built above the site. The only remaining parts of the original station are the underground platforms and tracks, plus a few components on the mezzanine above.


Occupying two blocks between Eighth and Seventh Avenues and between 31st and 33rd Streets, the original Pennsylvania Station building had facades of 240 m along side streets and 132 m along main avenues. The station covered an area of ​​8 acres (3.24 ha). About 3 000 000 m3 of earth were excavated during construction. The original structure was made of 14,000 m3 of pink granite, 1,700 m3 of stone, 24,494 t of steel, 43,545 t of bricks and 300,000 electric lights. At the time of Penn Station's completion, The New York Times called it "the greatest building ever built at once".


The exterior of Penn Station was marked by an imposing Roman colonnade based on the classical Greek Doric order. These columns, in turn, were designed based on historical monuments, such as the Acropolis of Athens. The rest of the facade was designed around St. Peter's Square in Vatican City and the headquarters of the Bank of England. Colonnades personified the sophisticated integration of multiple functions and the circulation of people and goods. McKim, Mead & White's design combined steel and glass ceilings with a lobby, serving as a monumental entrance to New York City. The building had entrances on all four sides. From the streets, two 19 m carriageways, inspired by the Brandenburg Gate, led to the two railways that served the station. One lane led to the north of the building, serving LIRR trains, while the other led to the south side, serving PRR trains. Above each entrance to the tracks was a colonnade 70 m wide. The ceiling was made of Monel alloy.

Entry gallery

The main entrance was a shopping arcade that led to the intersection of Seventh Avenue and 32nd Street. Two signs were placed at the Seventh Avenue entrance of the building. One plate contained an inscription with the names of the people who participated in the New York tunnel expansion project, while the other had the dates and name of the contractors.

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