22 Feb 2007

Can You Believe They Tore It Down?

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nyc-architecture.com has a photo collection on New York City’s lost Pennsylvania Station:

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 tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.”
– “Farewell to Penn Station,” New York Times editorial, October 30, 1963

Hat tip to The Barrister, who writes:

There was a fervor for tearing down old buildings in urban American during the 1960s and early 70s. Many historic, but dilapidated, downtowns were bulldozed, as were countless wonderful “Union Stations” – and anything else that seemed “old”.

Today, we cherish towns like Savannah which were left untouched by the government scourge of “urban renewal.”

19th century housing was replaced by “modern” Soviet-style planned and government-subsidized housing projects (which finally are beginning to be dynamited themselves, for good reason). And the buildings were replaced with parking lots and sterile semi-high rises, and malls – that horrible concept which turns its back on the town in an effort to create an unreal, soul-less consumer paradise for the masses.

When you drive through downtown Bridgeport, CT, Hartford, or Nashville, you will be hard put to find an old building. Lucky towns escaped this frenzy of “modernization,” which I term “dehumanization.” Nobody wants to be in those sorts of downtowns.

Pennsylvania Station on the West Side of Manhattan – one of the masterpieces of the beaux-art movement – did not escape the epidemic of destruction. Grand Central Station escaped – but only barely. Just tell me – where would you rather wait 40 minutes for a train to meet your girlfriend or boyfriend – the new Penn Station, or Grand Central?..

Who would have the nerve to knock this thing down and replace it with the new (and truly terrible in every way) Madison Square Garden?


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