Pennsylvania Station, New York, but known as Penn Station to everyone, and
at this point in time the mass of the terminus is buried under the town's
Madison Square Garden. But once upon a time, and above ground, this station's
architecture was a massive temple to trains - A huge building of overpowering
dimension and grandeur. Now, underground, what is left is a network of
corridors and open spaces, where decoration had been abandoned in favour of
straight lines and bad lighting.
When I first hit Penn Station in the eighties, it was just a warren of crime and street entertainers, and just like being on the set of Death Wish. In essence, it was all probably the stuff of what I'd seen on TV and was a very electric and frantic scene. Below street level, long scary tunnels took you to the overground or the subway sections. No one was paying their fare: Some took exit via this simple gate, and straight into the arms of the NYPD. It was exciting, dangerous even. The old Penn Station had been long gone, but as I discovered what a grand goliath the old building was, I did feel cheated that I'd not been allowed to enjoy it. Sure, one could travel several blocks and see the Grand Central instead, but Penn seemed, from photos anyway, quite a dominant entity. Pure classical design mixed with industrial steel embroidery. What a sight it must have been. Massive stone eagles over the entrance, and a 270 foot long waiting room!
I heard that some people were up in arms over the decision to pull down this marvellous structure, and like the death of London's Euston Arch, the Penn protest was ignored so that developers might get their way, and so it became New Yorks symbol of architectural conservation. It must have seemed quite a shocking transformation to all, when the huge departure space and concourse were replaced with... nothing. And a very pleasant and astounding design was flattened to make way for the Garden. But what a price to pay!
All that construction and destruction, for something that was only up for about sixty years. It's a terrible shame that this huge example of complete gotham was just wiped out whilst it was so young. It could have been part of the tourist trail for hundreds of years, and I would have been so impressed. But like here in London, so many bandits are in control of what stays up, and what gets blown up. I can only dream of how great it was.
Charles (of London Town)