Welcome to Vintage Railroad Postcards!

Thank you for stopping by! This is the blog for the Russell P. Panecki Collection of vintage railroad-related postcards. The entire collection consists of nearly one thousand so far with images dating from circa 1904 to the 1950s. To leave a comment, ask a question, to contribute or correct historical information, a comment box is located to the left for your convenience.

Beginning in October, 2015, the blog was redesigned to include an index of individual postcards, both listed in alphabetical order and by categories. Each page, including this homepage, has the index located in the lower portion of the page. In addition to the index, posts were updated with historical information, new postcards added with more to come every month from storage files, while some posts were completely rewritten or edited for corrections. Three articles have been added and are worth reading. They include how vintage postcards were made, the history of Pennsylvania Station, and the history of Grand Central Terminal.

My apologies, but the postcards in my collection and on this blog are not available for sale, copying, or for contribution to projects. Please keep in mind that I reserve all rights to the images and content of this blog.

Friday, September 11, 2015

New York's Pennsylvania Station in History, Photographs, and Postcards



A Fight Among Giants

In the early 20th Century, the American railroad industry was at the center of the economy with all other industries either associated with it or living in its shadow. Not only were the railroads a driving force behind the social and economic expansion of the country, they were part of the very center of the economy and had been since the middle of the 19th Century. Important railroads such as the Pennsylvania and the New York Central saw themselves as being giants in the central American industry. And both companies created monuments that embodied that sense of greatness and grandeur in the architecture of Grand Central Terminal and Pennsylvania Station. At one time in the first quarter of the Twentieth Century, America's railroad industry was a powerful financial force with stocks consisting of fifty percent of the volume traded on American markets. By comparisonhowever, the Pennsylvania railroad was the largest, most publicly traded corporation in the world. By 1900 it had a work force of over 100,000 employees with an operating budget that was second only to that of the federal government. 

Competition was fierce and bare-knuckled between the New York Central and the Pennsylvania railroads. Both companies fought over market shares for freight and passenger service from the mid-Atlantic to the mid-western states. By executing strategies that included buying and merging smaller railroads with important routes, each played a chess game involving billions of dollars, thousands of miles of track, and many thousands more in employees. In the opening of the Twentieth Century, however, the struggle between the two focused on the all-important, growing, and lucrative long-distance travel market between Chicago and Manhattan. The Central had the upper hand in this match with an already existing terminal on Forty-Second Street that provided long-distance passengers with a direct access to the heart of New York City.  Manhattan-bound passengers on the Pennsylvania Railroad, on the other hand, had to arrive across on the other side of the Hudson River at the Pennsylvania Terminal in Jersey City, New Jersey. From there, they no choice but to board the railroad's ferries to Manhattan. Passengers faced unexpected delays due to weather and fog. The West Side ferry terminal in Manhattan was a less-than-ideal location was an inconvenience and further transportation arrangements had to be made which annoyed tired passengers trying to end their already long journey. 

This circa 1906 postcard below shows the ferry slips and boats at the Jersey City Pennsylvania Terminal.


This circa 1908 postcard gives us a look of the front train sheds of the terminal, photographed during the construction of the new station across the river.


                                        The Building of an American Landmark 

In 1901 a cable was received by Pennsylvania Railroad's president, Alexander Cassatt, while on a visit to Paris. Sent by one of the one of the company's engineers, Samuel Rea, whose previous experience on the B&O's Belt Line project included a new tunnel and the use of electric locomotives. He urged Cassatt to tour the Gare d'Orsay, the world's first electric rail terminal that opened the year before. The visionary Cassatt became convinced that, by building tunnels and using the newly emerging technology of electric locomotives, the railroad would finally be able to put an end to the disruptive ferry service and directly access Manhattan. With agreement from the railroad's board of directors, it was decided to undertake a massive construction project. It would include tunnels under the Hudson River to connect with a new beaux arts station in Manhattan. From there, trains would continue through tunnels under the East River  and then connect with the railroad's subsidiary, the Long Island Railroad, at Long Island City. It was a bold plan and would require an unprecedented outlay of capital, teams of engineers, and hundreds of crews working simultaneously above and below ground so that all parts of the project would be completed at the same time.
    
The idea of getting trains across the Hudson wasn't a new one for the company; a feasibility report was prepared in October of 1892 by the president of the Pennsylvania at the time, G.B. Roberts, and prepared by Samuel Rea. Originally the idea of a bridge was considered at length, but other railroads showed no interest in the idea of a cooperative, capital-draining project; besides, even if railroad was to execute such a plan by itself, a charter for a bridge used by one company would be out of the question. The discussion of how to get tracks into Manhattan, then, was finally settled. Shortly after Cassatt's return from Europe, the railroad began buying vacant land, buildings, and houses on city's West Side using a real estate proxy called the Stuyvesant Real Estate Company. By keeping the railroad's name undisclosed, Stuyvesant's agents sought to get the lowest possible property prices. Near the end of that year, Cassatt publicly announced the project. 

But a year earlier in 1902, a tragic accident took place in one of the tunnels in the New York Central's old terminal that changed the way trains would enter the city. Two passenger trains, one from the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad and the other from the Central, were involved in a rear-end collision that killed fifteen people. It was determined that the collision was caused by heavy smoke in the tunnel, obscuring the engineer's view of the track and signals ahead. New York City passed a smoke abatement law afterwords in 1903; any plans by the Central or the Pennsylvania, therefore, had to include electric locomotives for use in the approach tunnels. 

After a meeting in Philadelphia, Cassatt commissioned Charles McKim of the famous architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White in 1902.  McKim sought inspiration for the design from the ancient Roman Baths of Caracalla and the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine in Rome. The station was to be be in the beaux arts style capable of accommodating an estimate of 200,000 passengers a day, and was to last for generations to come. In addition to becoming the railroad's home in Manhattan, it would be both a railroad station and public space. According to a 1999 study "The Fall and Rise of Pennsylvania Station" by Eric J. Plosky, "McKim envisioned Penn Station as a dynamic, popular facility, patronized by more than just harried commuters rushing to catch the evening local." The chosen eight acre site was between two of the cities major avenues taking up two city blocks, between Thirty-First and Thirty-Fourth Streets and Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Construction began in 1903 with the clearing of the area and the start of the Hudson River tunnels to New Jersey with tunnels under the East River to begin the following year. It was no small coincidence that on the very same year the Pennsylvania began its work, the New York Central's president, W.H. Newman, announced a proposal to build its own new terminal. And, not surprisingly, it too would be a large beaux arts structure situated across town on Forty-Second Street replacing the current Victorian building erected in 1871 and rebuilt 1898. Manhattan, then, would become the site of two palatial structures owned and built by the most powerful railroads in the country.

In these two circa 1908 photographs, the first one taken by the Detroit Publishing Company, a large and famous postcard publishing house, we see the seventy-foot deep excavation for the beginning of the station. The second photograph of the steel framing of the station building is from an unknown photographer. Images courtesy the Library of Congress.



The North River Tunnel Construction Begins

The Pennsylvania was the second railroad to undertake tunnel building under the North River, that portion of the Hudson from Manhattan to New York City harbor; the first was accomplished by the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad. This world-famous engineering marvel began in 1874 with the construction of two "tubes" within a single tunnel that connected Hoboken and Jersey City, New Jersey with lower Manhattan. They became known as the "McAdoo Tubes", after the railroad's president William Gibbs McAdoo. Air-lock chambers were used to equalize air pressure for the work crews prior to their accessing the tunnel. The chambers, also used to build the pier foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge, avoided the deadly physical affliction known as "the bends", a consequence of working so deeply. Construction consisted of curved cast iron tubes and rings used to fabricate the tunnel walls and a "tunnel shield" was employed to advance the excavation foot by foot. Completed in 1904, the tunnel was built to a final depth of from 60 to 90 feet beneath the river's surface. The feasibility and engineering precedent, then, had already been demonstrated.

In a detailed 1919 book, "History of the Engineering, Construction, and Equipment of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company's New York Terminal and Approaches" by William Couper, three separate divisions were created to manage that aspect of the project when the work began in 1904. The Meadows Division built a new route for the double-track main line to Harrison, New Jersey at a station with no other access other than by passenger trains named Manhattan Transfer. Here the railroad's steam engines would be exchanged for electric locomotives coming from Manhattan. The tracks were then laid down northeast, through the Hackensack River meadow lands, and ended at Weehawken, the location of the west end tunnel portal. The North River Division then took over the construction of the portal sites on both sides of the river for the construction of the tunnels. Initially, large vertical shafts were excavated to the necessary depth below ground and lined with concrete. Materials, equipment, and work crews were then lowered for the start of blasting and excavating away the rock. According to Couper, both the vertical shafts and horizontal tunnel starting points were cut out of rock using air-powered drills and blasted at the tunnel face using 906,000 pounds of dynamite on either side. When the portals were completed, work could begin on the tunnel borings. The diagram below shows the tunnel system extending from New Jersey to Long Island City. Image reference courtesy Wikimedia Commons. 


The tunnels were built using series of iron rings bolted together and caulked for waterproofing. Although resting on bedrock, they had to be pushed through the upper river bed by using tunneling shields consisting of an iron cylinder, slightly larger in diameter than the tunnel itself at twenty-three and a half feet in diameter and seventeen feet in length. It worked like a tube-within-a-tube with the shield tube section being on the outside of the tunnel tube and able to slide forward. The rearward portion of the shield tube always over lapped the tunnel tube by a few feet. The shield's exterior facing the river bed was a strong, durable round iron bulkhead with a built-in doors to access material to be excavated. When the bulkhead doors were locked, the massive thrust of twenty-four hydraulic jacks mounted in a circular pattern between the last iron lining ring bolted in place and face the shield, moved the entire unit forward. Water, silt, and mud were prevented from rushing into the space between the river bed and the tunnel shield by pumping in compressed air. The bulkhead doors were then opened, the riverbed material excavated, and hauled away on cars riding on narrow gauge track powered by small electric mining locomotives. The process was then started over again. It was hot, dirty, and very strenuous manual work and continued uninterrupted until the two ends of the tunnel met. In his well-documented 1966 book, "Manhattan Gateway", railroad author and historian William D. Middleton noted that "With crews of 24 men at each shield working on three 8-hour shifts, the average rate of progress in each heading was about 18 feet per day." 

According to an article in Couper's book and contributed by a representative of the architectural firm, the railroad apparently had the best interests of the tunnel crews in mind during the difficult and hazardous process. "Extraordinary efforts were made during the construction period to safeguard the health of employees. Of necessity the clothing worn by them would become wet, or at least damp, but on the morrow they would be dry again, for each man's locker was heated by steam. Hot coffee was always on tap and it was served to the tunnel workers under the rivers once during each shift; a medical corps was maintained on the work and, in fact, many features of a nature not usually found on construction work were provided." Despite these efforts, an estimated 19 men died early into the tunnel construction due to "the bends" decompression disease. 

This 1905 photograph is of one of the tunnel shields. The large arm in the center of the shield was used like a crane in order to lift each iron ring into place. Image reference courtesy Wikimedia Commons. 


The tunnels were set to a maximum depth of three hundred feet in the middle of the river. About 1,100,000 cubic yards of excavation was removed at both portal sites and the weight of the cast iron casings for the tunnels weighed 65,000 tons and an estimated 2,500 tons of bolts used for connections and the weight of the additional structural steel was 1,850 tons. The concrete tunnel liners used over 200,000 cubic yards of poured concrete and had semi-circular arched roofs and flat benches on either side with ducts for electric cables. The station also required a staging point for waiting trains as well as for storage of a  large amount of passenger cars and a site was located in the Sunnyside section of Queens near the East River portals. It was the largest coach yard ever built in the world covering over an estimated 192 acres of land and consisted of almost thirty miles of track. In September of 1906, the two ends of the North River tunnels finally met, one year ahead of schedule. An offset between the last sections built were offset by only an incredible one-sixteenth of an inch. In celebration of the completion, railroad officials rode in an automobile through one of the North River tunnels, the very first automobile to be driven beneath the Hudson River. The tunnel crews, nicknamed "sandhogs" in the trades, celebrated by passing around boxes of cigars after having just built the longest underwater tunnels in the world.

"Station Operating Successfully"

The entire process had taken seven years to complete with unceasing hard work by teams of top engineers, contracting companies, thousands of skilled workers, at an estimated cost of $150 million, and three years earlier than Grand Central Terminal that was still under construction. The Long Island Railroad's service began first, on September 8, 1910, using four single-track tunnels from the eastern end of the station and under the East River to Long Island City The Hudson River tunnels were opened for trains at the same time with the station. When Pennsylvania Station finally opened its doors in November 27, 1910, an estimated 25,000 passengers rushed in to buy tickets. The New York Times wrote that "100,000 persons, in addition to the passengers, visited the new station and admired its architectural, mechanical, and other wonders. The crowds began coming early in the morning, and from then until night the throngs never diminished in size. Every one, seemingly, bore away the impression that the Pennsylvania’s Manhattan Station represents the last word in that kind of structure." Middleton mentioned that visitors continued to come in and stayed and stayed all night outnumbering passengers fifty to one. The city newspapers, various journals, and magazines all praised the station and its architectural wonders. But not everyone was so impressed. Middleton cited the June, 1910 edition of The Architectural Record stated that it had the appearance of "a good substantial jail, a place of detention and punishment in which the inmates were not intended to have a good time." He also noted that French architect Augustin Adolphe Rey, toured the city earlier in 1908 and, while being driven passed, remarked to a New York Times reporter "What...a railroad station! Why then is it built like a Roman temple?"

The station rose up from the bedrock, erected as a steel frame with granite walls and eighty-four Doric columns, mostly in the front facade. In total, an estimated nine acres of travertine and granite, 15 million bricks, and 27,000 tons of steel were used. The form of construction was that of a bridge over the passenger platforms. On the interior, a glass roof 150 feet high that poured sunlight onto the main hall below. The main hall was located one story below street level accessed by marble steps connecting the entrance arcade from the main entrance on Seventh Avenue and the entrance on Eighth Avenue. The main hall itself had a marble floor with travertine walls and measured one hundred ten by three hundred feet. The track level was fifty feet below the station with eleven concrete passenger platforms ranging in length from 750 to 1,170 feet. Each platform was equipped with baggage lifts, one for incoming trains and another for outgoing. In order to facilitate the best traffic flow, incoming and departing passengers entered and exited the platforms on walkways and stairs located on two different levels. There were eleven passenger elevators, twenty-one baggage lifts, ten office elevators, six dumb waiters and a single escalator, a new and successful technology at the time. Although escalators were part of the original plan to carry passengers from the platforms to the concourse, the installation of additional "moving stairways" was put on hold until it was determined they were necessary. The station had both telephone and telegram counters and was equipped with its own telephone exchange that was staffed by six operators. The entire station, including the platform areas and the six-story station building, enclosed over an incredible thirteen million square feet. The Eighth Avenue front of the building and side elevations contained three floors of office space while on the first floor station master's office, locker rooms for employees, a hospital, the police department, and "funeral rooms" for those wishing for their final viewing to be located there. The day after opening, Middleton noted, Samuel Rea, the railroad's then vice president and future president, sent a cable off to the London office of North River Division chief engineer, Charles M. Jacobs, that simply read: "Station operating successfully. SamRea."

An estimated 40% of the mail going in and out of the city was brought in over the routes of the Pennsylvania. When the new, main New York City post office adjacent to the station was completed in 1912, a system of lifts, conveyors, and shoots, plus an additional four track platforms for mail cars was installed between the two buildings. In addition to the Pennsylvania, the station hosted trains from the New York, New Haven & Hartford, and the Lehigh Valley railroads. During and after World War One, the Pennsylvania was forced to allow access to the rival, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad by the federal government's United States Railroad Administration, a body that controlled the nation's railroad for the war effort. Once the USRA turned control over to the railroads, the Pennsylvania was more than willing to end the insulting relationship in 1926. 

This 1916 floor plan is of the the main level of the station. There were carriage and baggage areas, also used for automobiles and taxis, complimented the entrances on Thirty-Third and Thirty-Fourth Streets.The main facade was a colonnade of Doric columns containing retail space although both Cassatt and McKim wanted to avoid a commercial appearance. The entrance vestibule led to a shop-lined arcade that visitors and passengers passed through to enter the main hall, or "general waiting" room, located exactly between Thirty-Third and Thirty-Fourth Streets. Both the women's and men's waiting rooms were segregated, a standard railroad practice at the time, and there was both a restaurant and lunch room for meals located behind the ticket counters. Image references courtesy Wikimedia Commons. 



Dwarfing the surrounding buildings, we see the massive Seventh Avenue exterior after completion. The excavation across from the entrance is for the future Hotel Pennsylvania. Image references courtesy the Library of Congress.



The interior magnificent glass ceiling was supported with steel lattice box columns. supporting interconnected steel domes of the glass ceiling. Note the concrete passenger platforms connected with iron stairs and the wood cross-over planking used during finishing work. 




In this photograph, we see the grand main hall with a statue of Alexander Cassatt to the left. The driving force behind the planning and construction, Cassatt died in Philadelphia during the earlier building stage in 1906.



The Motive Power

Because of the fatal accident inside of a tunnel in the old New York Central terminal in 1902, all locomotives in and out of Pennsylvania Station were electric-powered. Ready for their first assignment when the station opened, the new DD1 was the first generation of all-electric engines used by the railroad. Power was supplied by a third-rail system consisting of an electrically-charged railroad rail, covered with wooden planks  for safety, located close to each track. "Pick-up shoes" were mounted on the locomotive's trucks designed to glide over the third-rail. Coupled together in a semi-permanent configuration and powered by a large Westinghouse motor in each unit, the engines had a continuous pulling power of 1,580 horse power at fifty-eight miles an hour. The introduction of the DD1 stood as a transition between steam locomotives of the current time and all future generations of powerful electric traction engines. Beginning in 1909, the railroad's Juniata erecting shops in Altoona, Pennsylvania built a fleet of DD1s for a total number of sixty-six units before being replaced by the new L5 locomotives in 1924 and built in the Juniata shops as well. The L5s, however, proved to be not nearly as successful as the DD1s. 

In this design drawing, we see the side rods connected to the driving wheels. A "jack shaft" rod entered through the body frame and was directly mounted to the electric motor. Image reference courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


A later version of the DD1 was put on display by Westinghouse at San Francisco's Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915. The firm manufactured the electric motors and equipment for the locomotive and the Pennsylvania. Here is a period postcard showing the size of the exhibit within "The Palace of Transportation".



The Home of the Broadway Limited

At the time service between Philadelphia, and Chicago was provided by the line's crack "Pennsylvania Special", first launched in 1902. In the very well-detailed book from 1967 titled "Steam, Steel, & Limiteds" by the railroad historian William Kratville, the author wrote "A legend persists that in June, 1905, the Special hit a of speed of one-hundred-twenty-seven miles per hour between Ada and Crestline, Ohio." He said "But in 1912, the name was changed to The Broadway Limited and it took over the Pennsylvania Special's schedule and fanfare." There was an up-charge, or "extra fare", added to the cost of a ticket as was the practice for many luxury trains of the era. According to the railroad, the purpose of the Broadway was "to meet the demand for quick, high-grade service". The name for the train, not derived  from the avenue in Manhattan as popularly imagined, but from the wide, four-track mainline that consisted of a portion of the route. The Broadway's real main purpose was to produce revenue by attracting a  wealthier passenger clientele. From conception to inauguration, the Broadway was designed to directly compete with the New York Central's own famous flagship train, the 20th Century Limited. The many on-board amenities included a secretary for letter dictation, a service to dash off telegrams and receive the latest stock quotations and sports updates at one of the station stops along the route when the telephone was plugged in for passenger calls, and sumptuous meals were served in the posh dining car. The Broadway offered both a barbershop and bath, the latest newspapers and magazines in its library with writing desks holding stationary printed with the train's name. A haircut was fifty-cents and a bath was seventy-five. A suit could be pressed for $1.50. Maid and valet services were available for helping passengers to look their very best while traveling. 

Passengers included the famous and the wealthy, business tycoons, international heads of state, as well as musical and theatrical stars. There were no coaches on the Broadway, only reserved Pullman sleeping cars being a "through train" with no local stops. At the end was open-platform observation car fitted with polished brass railings and a lit sign, or "drumhead", lettered with the train's name and the railroad's famous herald. The running time between New York and Chicago was twenty hours. In Kratville wrote "The Pennsylvania spared no expense in making the Broadway known to the public and the train frequently was featured in newsreels, scenarios and travelogues. Through the years the Broadway became the true elite businessman's on the big cities run. If they were late, the dispatchers put everything else in the clear [or other trains on hold] and let them have the road. What a ride you could get on the Broadway when she was making up time!" and that "The Pennsylvania preferred to operate the Broadway as a refined train of about eight cars." Kratville also noted the train "was so dependable that many times it carried high-priced horses and valuable breeding livestock on the head-end." 

The venerable K4s Pacific class steam locomotives, shown below in a period view, were used to pull the Broadway starting in 1917. As with the DD1 traction motors, all of the engines were built by the the Juniata erecting shops and lasted right up to the time of replacement by diesel power. The second card, circa 1915, shows the Broadway at speed. As was a common practice, a "retoucher" had worked on the original photograph, once showing only tracks and used as the basis for the postcard, by painting in a locomotive, train, and scenery before publishing. 



This is a railroad promotional card from 1926 advertising the Broadway Limited as "the super speed de luxe passenger express of the Pennsylvania RR". 


With amenities and service sadly stripped away over its final years, the Broadway Limited, once an icon of the Pennsylvania Railroad and a train known around the world, disappeared from Amtrak schedule boards in 1995.

The Pennsylvania Station in Postcard Views

In following cards, circa 1910 to the 1920s, we see a variety of interior views of this magnificent station. The card below, postmarked 1910, is a highly stylized view of the front elevation.







 
In this rare view, we see a DD1 electric locomotive with a train that has just arrived. What appears to be a group of company officials have gathered around the locomotives while a crew member, seemingly unimpressed, looks on in the cab entrance. Power was supplied by third-rails and electric pick-up shoes mounted on the locomotive's trucks. In order to maintain continuous power, small pantographs were mounted on the roofs of the DD1s that contacted short lengths of overhead wire when the locomotives passed through the non-powered spaces of the switch tracks in both the platform area and tunnels.


Here we see a DD1 locomotive emerging from the tunnel under the Hudson River and pulling into Pennsylvania Station. We can get a good look at the third-rails used for electrical power along the sides of the track.


And finally we get a look down one of the tunnels under the Hudson River that connected Pennsylvania Station with the Manhattan Transfer Station, in Harrison, New Jersey. The portal entrance in the distance is in Weehawken. Steam locomotives would then take over for the DD1s in Harrison for each train's continuing journey. Again we see the electrical third-rail on the left of the track,


"A Crime Scene"


The end of this irreplaceable American architectural monument to the nation's railroading greatness had slowly begun to sink into irrelevance over the years after the mid-1940s, being taken for granted and hardly even noticed by passing pedestrians. The station stood neglected and had been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair with an overall dark, gray look of somber shoddiness. The once magnificent Pennsylvania Station that saw two world wars, the Great Depression, and had both welcomed and wished bon voyage to millions of passengers a year, was about to meet its tragic end.  The post-war years saw a rapid increase in the use of trucks, automobiles and then, later, the expansion of passenger airlines. In the future, the current president, Dwight Eisenhower, would go on to sign the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, the start of the nation's interstate highway system, further deepening the crisis for America's railroads. By the mid-Fifties, the railroad was strapped for cash due to its sharply declining passenger and freight revenues and its management, by then, had already prophetic view of what was to come. If the railroad was to survive at all, a decision needed to be made.

In 1955, James M. Symes, the railroad's president at the time, announced that an agreement to sell the air rights above the station had been reached with real estate developer William Zeckendorf for $30 million, but the deal fell through. After that, the railroad realized the station, after all, was actually an asset with some actual value. Plans and proposals to modernize came and went dragging out the sale process for years. One attempt to at least update part of the station was to the passenger waiting area. The old ticket windows were replaced with a large, modern electronic ticketing area placed under an illuminated, swooping, arched overhead canopy. Instead of creating a modernized appearance, the ill-conceived installation clashed horribly with the surrounding classic architecture. Following another six years of waiting, a long-anticipated statement was made in July of 1961 regarding the station's future: a buyer had been found along with a possible solution agreeable to the railroad. Later, in 1962, the railroad's current president, A.J. Greenough, announced that a new partnership had been formed with Irving M. Felt, president of Madison Square Garden, Inc. and the owner of the development company named Graham-Paige. 

In the detailed 1999 study titled, "The Fall and Rise of Pennsylvania Station", author Eric J. Plosky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote a history of the arranged deal. He cited that "The plans to construct the new Madison Square Garden on the Penn Station site were finally reported in the Times on July 25, 1961, in a front page Times article entitled 'New Madison Square Garden to Rise Atop Penn Station.' Some details of the new Garden development were disclosed, but the fate of Penn Station itself, as indicated by the article’s vague headline, remained unclear: 'The main waiting room of Pennsylvania Station will be left as is, and special facilities, such as ramps and arcades, will be built to permit ready access to the sports and entertainment facilities for persons using either the Pennsylvania Railroad or the Long Island Rail Road." He further wrote "That Penn Station would actually be demolished as part of the new Garden development was belatedly reported on July 27, along with details of the Pennsy’s arrangement with Graham-Paige: 'A new company has been formed, Madison Square Garden, Inc., to build and operate the project. Graham-Paige will control 75 percent of the stock of the new company and the Pennsylvania Railroad 25 percent.' Further, the Pennsy would receive a 'substantial rental' on a 'long-term lease.' The whole project was scheduled to be completed in time for the opening of the New York World’s Fair in 1964." In the end the station was to be replaced by modern office space, the new Madison Square Garden sports complex, a cinema, bowling lanes, and was to be named "Penn Plaza". In exchange for the air rights the railroad was to receive a new, air-conditioned, but smaller station below street level at no cost.  Plosky noted that "The new complex would also, certainly, make a constructive contribution to the balance sheets of the Pennsylvania Railroad. By selling its air rights to the Madison Square Garden Corporation and replacing Penn Station with a more compact underground facility, the Pennsy would collect $2.1 million per annum in rent, plus some $600,000 in yearly savings on maintenance and operating costs of the terminal. The railroad would also be able to use the opportunity to create a modern new image for itself."  

The announcements of the demolition of Pennsylvania Station created both an uproar and support. The business community saw the plan as a step forward in revitalizing and developing the area. But criticism, on the other side of the issue fence, was loud and sharp. It seemed as if the entire city was involved in one way or another with everyone having an opinion. Plosky wrote that Norval White, architect and assistant professor of architectural design at Manhattan's famous Cooper Union engineering school, made a radical yet sensible proposal for the government of New York City to buy the station outright and have the Port Authority take over and manage it just as it was already doing with the city's bridges, automobile tunnels, and airports. In his own criticism of the situation, Plotsky explained that "Historic preservation simply wasn’t a concern. In the early 1960s, it had not yet occurred to most New Yorkers that certain private structures might be worthy of public protection. As in the past, private owners were regulated only by building laws and zoning codes, and when economic considerations dictated the replacement of a particular structure, the wrecking balls swung." He also pointed out that the city's own Landmarks Commission had done nothing to take action on the matter. In May of 1963, Ada Louise Huxtable, the famous outspoken architectural critic for The New York Times, acridly remarked  that "If a giant pizza stand were proposed in an area zoned for such usage, and if studies showed acceptable traffic patterns and building densities, the pizza stand would be 'in the public interest' even if the Parthenon itself stood on the chosen site." Norval White and other prominent New York architects went futher than White's own original proposal and formed an organization called the "Action Group for Better Architecture in New York", or AGBANY, supported by a number of other architects as well as members of the city's creative community. The group picketed the station before and up to the last day. The demolition began on October 28, 1963 and took three years to complete. One writer called the demolition site "a crime scene".

Two days later, oOctober 30th, Huxtable wrote her most scathing and best known piece for The Times entitled "Farewell to Penn Station". She fiercely stated that "Until the first blow fell no one was convinced that Penn Station really would be demolished or that New York would permit this monumental act of vandalism against one of the largest and finest landmarks of its age of Roman elegance. It’s not easy to knock down nine acres of travertine and granite, 84 Doric columns, a vaulted concourse of extravagant, weighty grandeur, classical splendor modeled after royal Roman baths, rich detail in solid stone, architectural quality in precious materials that set the stamp of excellence on a city. But it can be done. It can be done if the motivation is great enough, and it has been demonstrated that the profit motivation in this instance was great enough. Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tin-horn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed." Plotsky added that "the resulting public outcry led to New York City’s Landmarks Law, signed by Mayor Robert Wagner on April 19, 1965. Furthermore, the battle over Pennsylvania Station heightened national interest in historic preservation." 

In 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act was enacted and, within the decade, Grand Central Terminal was protected from the same fate under the city's act. 

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