Penn Station

New York, New York, USA

Demolished 1963

The Disappointed Tourist: Penn Station, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

Not being able to see the REAL Penn Station is more than a disappointment; it is a tragedy. It was one of the finest examples of Beaux Arts architecture in New York City – if not the whole country. Without traveling to Italy, one could marvel at the grandeur of Roman architecture; without traveling to Italy, one could enter the Baths of Caracalla by entering the main waiting room. A disappointed and robbed tourist.  Elizabeth A.  

I cannot remember a greater disappointment than when I went looking for New York’s Penn Station, probably some 35+ years ago. Perhaps it was before I saw Berenice Abbott’s celebrated pictures of the place, or perhaps not, but going into the absolutely depressing station that replaced that masterpiece, I could not fathom how they dared to tear it down. Jordi S.

Also requested by Genevieve L.R. & Thomas C.

McKim, Mead & White’s railroad station in midtown Manhattan for the Pennsylvanian Railroad opened in 1910 to great acclaim. Declining rail traffic led to its eventual sale to developer William Zeckendorf, who demolished it in 1963, inspiring the creation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Of the replacement Penn Station, underneath Madison Square Garden, the architectural critic Vincent Scully, famously wrote “one entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.” This painting is based on an old uncredited postcard.