Tag Archives: McKim Mead & White

It’s True, A Group Wants To Entirely Rebuild The Original Penn Station

A Serious Proposal To Rebuild The Original Penn Station

New Main Waiting Room Penn Station Credit: Jeff Stikeman for Rebuild Penn Station.

The National Civic Art Society has developed a plan to entirely rebuild the original Penn Station.

The biggest and most obvious hurdle to accomplishing the Society’s plan would be demolishing the many buildings that currently stand on the site including Madison Square Garden and a 34 story office building. Then the next question arises: who would fund such an enterprise?

As crazy as all this sounds, the actual rebuilding plan sounds feasible. You would just need all the corrupt politicians and greedy real estate entities to cooperate. That will almost certainly not occur.

But that doesn’t stop one from hoping. The organizers have an executable plan and want to drum up support among the public. Here is the opening statement from their website rebuildpennstation.org

New York City’s original Penn Station was one of the finest buildings ever constructed. With its vast main hall and soaring concourse, it provided a triumphant gateway into the city. Its demolition in 1963 was one of the greatest architectural and civic crimes in American history.

That wrong is all the worse given the current station, which is cramped, dismal, and hard to navigate. As the historian Vincent Scully said about the original station, “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”

We aim to reconstruct the original station to return it to its former glory. Click here to join our cause.

The video the Society produced explains more.

As the rebuild Penn Station group pointed out, New York’s greatest architectural loss occurred 54 years ago.

On October 28, 1963 the demolition of Penn Station began and three years later the majestic station was gone, its marble and debris trucked out in pieces to the New Jersey Meadowlands and used as landfill.

Trains still go in and out of Penn Station. But the Penn Station that replaced the original has nothing in common with the original but the name.

Main Post Office completed 1912 photo: Underhill

Directly across from the original Penn Station between 31st to 33rd Streets and Continue reading

Who Was Appearing At The Madison Square Garden Theatre 116 Years Ago Today

December 17, 1900 The Great Sarah Bernhardt Was Appearing At The Madison Square Garden Theatre

madison-square-garden-theatre-program-dec-17-1900-coverMadison Square Garden was the center of entertainment for wealthy New Yorkers in the late 19th and early 20th century. Occupying the entire block between Park and Madison Avenues from 26th to 27th Streets, the Garden Theatre was the work of architects McKim, Mead and White.

Program for week of December 17, 1900 at Madiison Square Garden

Program for week of December 17, 1900 at Madiison Square Garden

The Garden Theatre featured the most famous stars of the day and 100 years ago today, you could have seen the fabulous French star Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) during her “farewell” week. Bernahardt made over nine “farewell” tours of America between 1906 – 1918. In 1900 Bernhardt was just doing farewell weeks.

Bernhardt was appearing in a prose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The crazy part was Ms. Bernhardt was playing….Hamlet! This was considered very controversial in 1900.

The other ads on the page show what major acts were appearing at theatres around the city.

The famous Maude Adams (1872-1953), was concluding her run at the Knickerbocker Theatre in L’Ainglon. There were only 12 more performances scheduled.

The Garden Theatre was managed by Charles Frohman, the most influential and important theatre impresario of the day. Frohman also managed the Criterion, Empire and Garrick Theatre. In addition to managing theatres, Frohman was the personal manager of Maude Adams.

If you have ever seen the movie Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, you may know that writer Richard Matheson based a good deal of Seymour’s character (Elise McKenna) on Ms. Adams. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #70 – 59th Street Central Park – 1903

59th Street, Fifth Avenue & Central Park On a Snowy Day – 1903

central-park-december-1903-from-burr-mcintoshThis panoramic view looking west from 5th Avenue of 59th Street, also known as Central Park South, was published in December 1903 by a theatrical magazine, Burr McIntosh monthly. Unless you’ve seen that issue of the magazine (unlikely) this view has remained unseen for the last 113 years.

A snowy day means light pedestrian and vehicular traffic. A few horse drawn vehicles are braving the elements, while a handful of pedestrians go about their business.

The building In the upper left corner on the south side of 59th Street is John D. Phyfe and James Campbell’s New Plaza Hotel (the original Plaza Hotel) built 1885-1890.

Phyfe and Campbell ended up losing the hotel in foreclosure before it was completed and it was purchased on September 18, 1888 by the New-York Life Insurance Co. for the bargain price of $925,000. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #57

Aerial View of Lower Manhattan – Late 1920s

Lower Manhattan from airplane looking south 1934In this aerial view looking south upon lower Manhattan in the late 1920s, the first thing you notice is the concentration of skyscrapers in lower Manhattan contrasted to the low profile tenements in the foreground that make up part of the lower east side.

There are also an abundance of piers along the East River, most of which have now vanished. Looking at the harbor, a large number of boats are active in the bay and on the Hudson River. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #13

10 Postcard Views Of Fifth Avenue From 31st -59th Street

postcard Fifth ave street sceneLet’s have a look at ritzy Fifth Avenue. All the postcards depict scenes from about 1900 – 1935. Fifth Avenue has a long association with wealth and privilege. Several of these postcards  capture the shifting tide of commercial intrusion into a neighborhood once dominated by  private residences.

As we look over the avenue, the one thing you will notice is how much traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, increased after the 1920’s.  We’ll start south and work our way north.

postcard Fifth Ave from 32nd St Waldorf AstoriaThis photo postcard taken around 1915 is looking north on Fifth Avenue from 32nd Street. The turreted Waldorf-Astoria Hotel with its American flag raised on the roof is the focal point of this scene. There are no traffic signals to interrupt the  vehicular traffic on the avenue. People cross the street with little difficulty as the traffic is light.

postcard Fifth Ave 34th St 1936In just 20 years Fifth Avenue has changed dramatically. Looking south on Fifth Avenue from 34th Street in 1935, the Waldorf-Astoria is gone and the Empire State Building is in its place. The Empire State is directly behind the double deck Fifth Avenue bus. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic is substantial and in front of the bus a policeman deals with the congestion. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #56

Manhattan Looking North & West From Madison Square Garden Tower – 1893

view North and west from Madison Square Garden Tower 1893This photograph taken by the firm of H.N. Tiemann shows the emerging profile of New York around 1893. The tallest structures visible are mostly steeples of the many churches that are spread throughout Manhattan.

We are looking north and west from 26th Street between Fourth and Madison Avenues from the tower of Madison Square Garden, designed by architectural giants McKim, Mead & White in 1890.

Scottish Rite Hall photo Kings Handbook of New YorkBesides churches, there are two buildings that are prominent in the photo. One was a former church, in the center lower portion of the image, the Scottish Rite Hall with the steeple tower at the corner of 29th Street and Madison Avenue. The building Continue reading

“He Ruined My Wife!” The 109th Anniversary of The Crime Of The Century

Millionaire Harry K. Thaw Shoots Architect Stanford White At Madison Square Garden  June 25, 1906

The Beautiful Evelyn Nesbit Is At The Center Of It All

Evelyn Nesbit happy

In the annals of 20th century crime there are many cases that claim the title of the “crime of the century.” From the Lindbergh kidnapping case to the O.J Simpson saga, the public has always had an unquenchable thirst for following the media coverage of lurid crimes.

Madison Square Garden photo H.N. Tiemann

Madison Square Garden 1909 photo H.N. Tiemann

Harry Thaw’s murder of Stanford White at the roof garden theater of White’s creation, Madison Square Garden on June 25, 1906, was as big a story that has ever played out in the public eye. If it was not the “crime of the century,” it certainly qualifies for being in the top five.

A brief summary of the principal players in this drama and the events leading up to the murder goes like this.

In 1901, Stanford White, partner in the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White wants to meet artist’s model and showgirl Evelyn Nesbit, who is 16. White is known in certain circles for being a scoundrel and having many sexual affairs with actresses, models and other pretty girls. Stanford White photo Kings Notable New YorkersAfter meeting Nesbit under the approval of Evelyn’s mother, White becomes Evelyn’s benefactor over the course of several months paying for a multitude of things for Evelyn, her brother and mother. White arranges for Evelyn’s mother to take a trip back home to Pennsylvania while he promises to “look after Evelyn.” One night, while Evelyn’s mother is away and Evelyn is at White’s bachelor apartment, he plies Evelyn with liquor.  Evelyn passes out and White has his way with his virgin teen beauty. Evelyn wakes up in bed naked with White and is in shock after being raped. White begs Evelyn not to talk about what has happened. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #12 – 20 Historic Buildings That Were Demolished

20 Historic, Beautiful New York Buildings That Were Demolished

City Hall Newspaper Row Buildings (l-r) World Building (aka Pulitzer Building), Sun Building, Tribune Building - all demolished. New York Times and Potter Buildings are still extant

City Hall Newspaper Row Buildings (l-r) World Building (aka Pulitzer Building), Sun Building, Tribune Building – all demolished. New York Times and Potter Buildings are still extant

New York City real estate developers will always knock down a building if a buck can be made. So it really should come as no surprise that these buildings were demolished because they outlived their usefulness or more often than not, the land they sat upon was deemed more valuable than the building itself.

Nathan Silver’s must-own book, Lost New York (1967) Houghton Mifflin, was the first book to explicitly point out what New York City had lost architecturally over the years. If you have never read it, you should.

For our short postcard essay, there are hundreds of examples we could have chosen from and we picked 20. We omitted places of worship, theatres and restaurants which are the most transitory of buildings.

We’ve covered hotels before, and we could do another story on all the historic hotels that have been torn down, but we’ve included a few in this retrospective.

Rather than comment extensively on the buildings, a brief summary will suffice and the images should convey what we have lost. These postcards have been scanned at 1200 dpi in high resolution, click on any postcard to enlarge.

Singer Building hresSinger Building – 149 Broadway (corner Liberty Street),  A gem by architect Ernest Flagg, built 1908. Once the tallest building in the world. The Singer Building was elegant and sleek. Demolished 1967-68 and replaced by a ugly box of a building built by the Unites States Steel Corporation.

Produce Exchange hresProduce Exchange – 2 Broadway between Beaver and Stone Streets. Architect George B. Post’s splendid work of grace was built in 1883, demolished 1957.

Gillender Building 2 hresGillender Building – northwest corner Wall Street and Nassau Street. Architects, Charles I. Berg and Edward H. Clark, built in 1897 at a cost of $500,000. The Gillender Building was the tallest office building in the world for a brief time. The 20-story tower lasted only 13 years. In 1910 it was the first modern fireproof building to be demolished and it was done at breakneck speed, in under 45 days. The Gillender Building was replaced by the Bankers Trust Tower. Continue reading

Old New York in Postcards #9 – Postcard Views Of The Interior Of Old Penn Station

Postcard Views Of The Interior Of Old Penn Station

Because it was dismantled over 50 years ago, many people are familiar with the grandeur of the original Penn Station only through photographs.

The station was opened to the public on September 8, 1910 and the cost of the exterior alone was over $100 million.

Seen from the exterior, the beautiful McKim Mead and White masterpiece represented a merging of modernity and classic architecture. Penn Station exterior

The interior was spacious and wondrous to behold. But according to the Pennsylvania Railroad, the owners of Penn Station, by the mid 1950’s, it was also grimy, outdated, in need of costly repairs and difficult to keep clean. These conditions existed mostly because the Pennsylvania Railroad let the station fall into that state.

The Pennsylvania Railroad knew the land the building was sitting on was worth more than the station itself. This grand monument to railroads and public space was sacrificed to “progress,” the development of the Penn Plaza office buildings and a new Madison Square Garden.

Without regard that a great civic wrong was being done, Penn Station was demolished between 1963 and 1966. It was replaced by a banal, claustrophobic, ugly underground maze also called Penn Station which bears no resemblance to the original, to cattle chute passengers to their trains.

More than two generations of New Yorkers have lamented the loss and contemplated replacements to bring about a new edifice and station worthy of the name. The Farley Post Office (also by McKim Mead and White) between 8th and 9th Avenues directly across the street from the current Penn Station is often discussed as hosting a remodeled station, but nothing has been done to bring those plans to fruition.

Here are some postcard interior views of the original Penn Station. (click on any image to enlarge.)

7 Old Ads Of New York Businesses From 1874

How Macy’s, Tiffany & Co. And Other New York Firms Advertised Their Businesses In 1874

Macy's Ad 1874 The 1874 book New York Past and Present by Charles Edwin Prescott (Mercantile Publishing) contains interesting advertising which provides a look at how various companies sold their wares.

Some companies or the buildings they occupied in 1874 are still here today, other companies vanished long ago without a trace and are completely forgotten.

Click on any advertisement to enlarge.

R. H. Macy was down on 14th Street at the corner of Sixth Avenue. They had a collection of buildings joined together on 14th Street as the company kept growing throughout the late 1800’s. They moved to their Herald Square location in 1902. I remember up until the 1980’s looking up at some of the buildings on 14th Street and still being able to see the Macy’s red star emblazoned on the facades of a few buildings.

In 1874 Macy’s top line for advertising was that they were “importers and dealers of embroideries and lace goods.” The rest of the ad goes on to describe carrying goods:”various ladies’, gents’ and childrens’ furnishing goods,” “white goods,” “fancy goods” and “kid gloves”

Colton Dental Ad 1874The advertisement for the Colton Dental Association located at 19 Cooper Institute says they originated the use of “laughing gas for the painless extraction of teeth.” Who knew?

In the 19th century, people were really scared of the dentist because it was generally a painful experience. The interesting part of the ad: “77,228 patients without a failure or an accident.”

Zero Refrigerator Ad 1874Seeing the word “refrigerator” in an 1874 ad may cause you to do a double take. But this is not a modern refrigeration system advertised by Alex M. Lesley, the manufacturer of the Zero Refrigerator with offices located at 224 -226 West 23rd Street. The Zero Refrigerator was merely an icebox with “water, wine and milk cooler.” Mr. Lesley simply says the Zero “is the best food and ice keeper in the world.” The world’s first refrigerator was built in 1834. Refrigerators for home use didn’t come into existence until 1913.    Continue reading