Growing up in New York, I never understood the fascination with Penn Station. The name itself had a ring of history and romance, but I couldn’t understand why: All I’d ever seen there was a dingy maze of underground tunnels that were the gateway to Madison Square Garden. It took me many years to realize that the station really did have a storied past as an architectural masterpiece that dominated mid-town Manhattan from 1910 -1963.
By all accounts – meaning the black-and-white photographs and the stories my grandparents told me – the original Penn Station was everything the name evokes: It was romantic, awe-inspiring, majestic. During World War II tens of millions of people a year moved through the station, and the iconic building served as a setting for many movies.
But as the 1950s dawned rail travel began to dwindle as automobiles and air travel gained popularity. The building began to lose money and in 1963 it was torn down. As mentioned above, the current-day Madison Square Garden now occupies the space.
Today, however, 8th Avenue has regained at least some of its former glory, in the form of the Daniel Patrick Moynahan Train Hall. In a word, the new terminal is breathtaking. Located in the building that housed the James A. Farley Post Office, the 255,000 square foot space (named after the late U.S. senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan) could not give a better welcome to visitors and native New Yorkers alike. The main hall, which opened in early January, boasts a massive glass atrium designed to pay homage to the original building.
Paul Goldberger, a noted architecture critic, told CBS News that the new terminal is both an impressive work of art and a salve for the wound the city suffered nearly 60 years ago but never really recovered from.
“Losing Penn Station in 1963 is what woke a much broader section of New York to wake up to the problem (of demolishing historic buildings),” he said.