A Brief History of Penn Station

History of Penn Station

If you have been to New York City, more specifically Manhattan, then you have probably utilized Penn Station to some extent. It is a central part of the city’s transportation system and it has been that way since it was built. It just looked a little bit different back then. Read on to discover the fascinating history of Penn Station. 

The Idea Turned Into a Plan – History of Penn Station

Early on in the twentieth century, passengers traveling to New York City through the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) had to travel to New Jersey and board a ferry across the Hudson River to get to Manhattan. There were several requests for the buildout of a train to cross the Hudson River but was ultimately considered infeasible. 

After the implementation of electric locomotives by the city of Paris, Pennsylvania Railroads began looking into utilizing this new technology. Ultimately deciding that tunneling under the Hudson River would be tabteck cheaper and more efficient all-around. Teaming up with Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), PRR began to propose a tunnel system that would allow passengers to travel from Long Island to New Jersey without having to change trains. These two Railroad companies would converge at what would be known as Pennsylvania Station. A large passenger station located by 8th ave between 31st and 33rd streets. After initially rejecting the proposal in 1901, the city of New York approved the request in December of 1902.

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 The Buildout

The president of PRR at the time was Alexander Johnston Cassat. Inspired by the Beaux-Arts style, Cassat hired architect Charles McKim to design a massive structure measuring fifteen hundred feet long, five hundred feet wide, three public stories, and twenty-five different tracks. 

Beginning in June of 1903, the construction of New York Penn Station would last for about seven years. After years of construction and 114 million dollars, the station was completed and open to the public on September 8th, 1910. 

The Operation 

Upon the initial opening, Penn Station ran at a 144 train capacity per hour. About one thousand trains were utilized during this period. Four hundred of which belonged to PRR. This number quickly began to rise as people began to use the station more. After ten years of operation, the majority of the station’s users were people compute into the city from the suburbs. 

Throughout the next several decades, Penn Station constantly went through improvements to increase the capacity and efficiency of its operation. The facilities were expanded, connections to the New York City Subway were made, The voltage of the tracks was increased, And the PRR was expanded to Washington D.C.

The Demolition 

In January of 1963, the demolition of the great Penn Station began, but it did not come without controversy. In 1962, the plans for a great sports complex called Madison Square Garden were announced by the president of Graham-Paige, a company that acquired ownership of air rights to Penn Station a few years prior. These plans included maintaining the operation of Penn Station while transforming its grandiose above-ground appearance and use. 

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Penn Station had become quite expensive to maintain and an argument was made that a great sports complex such as Madison Square Garden would become a monumental point, just as Penn Station once was. Architects of course protested wishing to preserve this beautiful piece of history and art, but it did not prove fruitful. Demolition began in October of 1963.  

The Current State 

Penn Station, while not near as grandiose as it once was, remains a major gateway to the city of New York. Undergoing several improvements and changes throughout the years of modernization and expansion, Penn Station still has some areas that remain virtually untouched. However, many critics claim that this leads to an outdated and dirty aesthetic, rather than historical and preserved. 

Among many of the improvements and updates that this station has acquired throughout the years is the luxury of public storage. Thousands of visitors come through New York each day and many of them utilize luggage storage Penn Station. Allowing them to safely drop off their luggage and enjoy a game at Madison Square garden or walk about the city while they wait to check in to their hotel or Airbnb. 

The Effect it Had 

Penn Station has had a massive effect on New York’s public transportation, but it has also made a resounding imprint on the way the City views its history. While the decision to tear down its great exterior was in the name of progressive improvement, the loss of such a work of art and history left a wound large enough to inspire a national architectural preservation movement. This movement ultimately led to the preservation of Grand Central Station and many other landmarks that exist to this day.