Save Penn Station

In praise of New York’s heavenly “hellhole”

New York City loves demolishing Pennsylvania Station so much that it keeps on doing it. The first demolition is still the most famous: the 1963–66 destruction of McKim, Mead & White’s 1910 sprawling Greco-Roman block-filler. But the threat continues to this day—not only to parts of the 1966 replacement, but to substantial and serendipitous remnants and complements of the original.

That replacement was developer/architect Charles Luckman’s now unpopular design for the complex constituting of a commuter and intercity train station, a midsized office tower, and the Madison Square Garden arena. “One entered the city like a god,” goes the famous elegy by historian Vincent Scully, “one scuttles in now like a rat.” Presumably he meant that because the demolished Penn Station’s colonnaded halls and vaulted rooms, with their sixty-foot monumental Corinthian order, were based vaguely on the Baths of Caracalla, you could waft through it all as might one of those many irritable or implacable Roman deities—or at least like a Roman citizen spending a summer afternoon at the caldar…

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