Old New York In Photos #52-A

Penn Station And The City At Night – January 1941

Pennsylvania Station seen at night from The New Yorker Hotel January 1941 - photo Underwood & Underwood

Pennsylvania Station seen at night seen from The New Yorker Hotel January 1941 – photo Underwood & Underwood

Every time you see photographs of New York’s old Pennsylvania Railroad Station you have to ask yourself how could this architectural masterpiece be knocked down and carted off piece by majestic piece to the landfill? The answer resided with the owners of the Pennsylvania Railroad and real estate developers who saw the station as a white elephant: filthy; declining train ridership; losing tons of money and impractical as a revenue generator. The land Penn Station sat upon was too valuable to let this monument to interstate travel remain in place. It would be redeveloped as office buildings and the fourth Madison Square Garden put in its place with the railroad station relegated to an unsightly subterranean labyrinth.

Soon after its destruction lasting from 1963 -1966, the city and New Yorkers began yearning for the old Penn Station. All New Yorkers today await a suitable replacement for the modern underground lair we now possess ignominiously called Penn Station.

Look at this panoramic view of Manhattan looking lit up to capacity in January 1941. Here is the original photo caption:

Pennsylvania Station

The electric glamor of New York by night shines out in this shot looking southeast from the roof of the Hotel New Yorker at 34th Street and 8th Avenue.  Directly below is Pennsylvania Terminal, its glass roof aglow. Surrounding it are gleaming office buildings and hotels. No more thrilling metropolitan scene could be recommended to the thousands who arrive at this station daily. The beacon-like light in the background surmounts the Metropolitan Life Building (23rd Street Madison Avenue). credit: Underwood & Underwood,  January 26, 1941

11 months later this photographic view would not be possible because America had entered World War II. The mandatory brownouts (dimming of all lights at night) in American cities blotted out the spectacle of light and cast a protective veil over New York City that would not be lifted until the conclusion of the war in 1945.

editor’s note; We have changed the title of this story to Old New York in Photos 52-A because someone forgot how to count – there were two number 52’s!
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2 thoughts on “Old New York In Photos #52-A

  1. josh

    this is the best shot of penn station that i’ve ever seen. it really makes you wonder how it could ever have been torn down.

    Reply

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