penn station

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1910-1963 The destruction of Penn Station

The fall of a New York architectural martyr

In 1910, when New York City transportation terminal Pennsylvania Station opened, it was widely praised for its majestic architecture. Designed in the Beaux-Arts style, it featured pink granite construction and a stately colonnade on the exterior.

The main waiting room, inspired by the Roman Baths of Caracalla, was the largest indoor space in the city — a block and a half long with vaulted glass windows soaring 150 feet over a sun-drenched chamber. Beyond that, trains emerged from bedrock to deposit passengers on a concourse lit by an arching glass and steel greenhouse roof.

This may sound unfamiliar for present-day residents of New York City, who know Penn Station as a miserable subterranean labyrinth.

Though the original Penn Station served 100 million passengers a year at its peak in 1945, by the late 1950s the advent of affordable air travel and the Interstate Highway System had cut into train use. The Pennsylvania Railroad could not even afford to keep the station clean.

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US soldier says farewell at Penn Station (Pennsylvania Station, New York), before being posted abroad in December 1943. (Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt) Eisenstaedt when speaking of the time he photographed American soldiers saying farewell to their wives and sweethearts in 1943 on assignment for ‘Life’ Magazine: “I just kept motionless like a statue.” he said. “They never saw me clicking away. For the kind of photography I do, one has to be very unobtrusive and to blend in with the crowd.”

(Colorised by Gisele Nash from America)
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