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The original Pennsylvania Station in New York City was a vast structure that occupied two whole city blocks. July 25, 1961 - The New York Times announced the impending demolition of Pennsylvania Station. Popular perceptions of the history of New York's attribute the birth of the preservation movement and local landmarks law to the demolition of Pennsylvania Station. Subsequently, a second story on the subject was published in the Times, and this time, the press publicized the Madison Square Garden Corporation's plan. The Action Group for Better Architecture in New York (AGBANY) formed largely in response to the threat to Penn Station.
With no resident constituency directly influenced by the demolition of Penn Station, only several hundred New Yorkers were moved to action to demonstrate against the demolition. The campaign to save Penn Station and to prevent the construction of Madison Square Garden failed, and the actual demolition of Pennsylvania Station began on October 28, 1963. Though the history of New York's preservation efforts began before the demolition of Penn Station, and in spite of the fact that New Yorkers at the time may not have realized the magnanimity of the loss, the destruction of Pennsylvania Station would later become an important preservation icon that rallied people to action.
New York’s famous City Hall subway station, one of the most gorgeous gems in the world of mass transit, has been closed for decades. However, thanks to an immediate need to expand the original IRT line with newer, longer cars, the City Hall Station was closed just a few decades later on December 31, 1945. Although it would spend the next few decades closed to the public, the tracks were still used as the turnaround point for the 6 train after its final Brooklyn Bridge stop.
About a decade ago, New York City began the long and arduous process of restoring the City Hall Station as New York’s transit museum, but security concerns that started before September 11, 2001 fully killed the idea after the twin towers fell.
If you have a little extra time, you can stay on the train and view the City Hall Station as the train makes its turnaround.
If tourist get off at this stop would they have to wait for another train to make its way around or is there an alternative way out. I have a copy of Lost New York (Google Play, Amazon) which has a bunch of amazing photos of buildings and subway stations in New York. There are also a number of books that credit photos of abandoned stations on Amazon, however I’m not as familiar with their contents. There are many amazing ghost stations across the world, but New York City‘s long-disused City Hall subway station is arguably one of the most striking.


But its innovative engineering and decorative design weren’t enough to keep City Hall operational into the second half of the 20th century. In addition, the platform at City Hall was built on a tight curve, and lengthening it to cope with the demands of modern trains would have been a massive civil engineering effort. For more pictures of Penn, be sure to check out my earlier post Farewell at Penn Station, poignant moments captured by LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt of WWII soldiers shipping out.
I too am addicted to old train stations and they don’t get much more monumental than Penn Station. You are currently reading Ghosts of Train Stations Past: New York Pennsylvania Station at Quite Continental. The boundaries surrounding the structure were 31st and 34th Streets, between 7th and 8th Avenues. The proposed building would be two blocks wide, rooted and roofed over the present site of Pennsylvania Station. Though the physical destruction took three years to complete, the threat to the station was always a few steps ahead of the potential preservation law that could have saved it. Yet, the successful passing of the 1965 landmarks legislation that potentially could have saved the original Pennsylvania Station, can certainly not be attributed to any single event.
Brief of the Action Group for Better Architecture in New York in Opposition to the Granting of a Special Permit, submitted to the City Planning Commission, New York, NY, February 1, 1963. The line, opened in 1904, was intended to be a showpiece and crown jewel of the new subway system. The 6 train used to make all passengers leave the train at the Brooklyn Bridge stop, but no longer. In fact there is a bulletin specifically telling us to NOT kick anyone off at Brooklyn Bridge. Opened amid much fanfare on October 27, 1904 as the grand southern terminus of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) on what was originally known as the Manhattan Main Line, City Hall was in reality never particularly busy, and closed to passenger traffic on New Years Eve, 1945.
While faded, the original splendour of City Hall station remains evident in its vaulted ceilings, terracotta tiles, skylights and brass chandeliers. Serving just 600 passengers per day, City Hall couldn’t compete with nearby Brooklyn Bridge station, which provided local and express services as well as connections to Park Row station and the Brooklyn Bridge streetcar. With the writing on the wall by the end of World War Two, the last passenger service departed New York City’s grandest subway station on December 31, 1945.


The truth, however, is that preservation forces had been operating in New York before any threat was posed to Pennsylvania Station 4.
AGBANY organized the public protest rally that took place on August 2, 1962 and employed other methods ranging from issuing petitions and placards, to urging public minded ownership for the threatened site and suggesting an adaptive reuse.
Furthermore, the Wagner administration did not wish to deviate from the chosen course of seeking a comprehensive system of landmark protection in order to save a single building, even if that building was Penn Station15.
Unlike the rest of the line, City Hall featured tall tile arches, brass fixtures, and skylights that ran along the entire curve of the station — a sort of miniature Grand Central Station. Brooklyn Bridge downtown is treated as a regular stop, and conductors are not supposed to waste any extra time there.
The original structure was designed by architects McKim, Mead and White, in the Beaux Arts style, and was erected in 19101.
AGBANY sought to politicize the battle by appealing to the City Council and political hopefuls for help12. In fact, befitting the elegance of the station, it was even the chosen place for hanging the commemorative plaques recognizing the achievement of building the underground train system. The building boasted an ornate exterior, arcade, waiting room, concourse and carriage-ways. AGBANY also submitted a brief to the City Planning Commission on January 3, 1963 specifically campaigning against the construction of the sporting stadium that would later become Madison Square Garden. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed" 11.
The brief opposed the construction on the grounds that the proposed space was already designated for a public purpose13. By the time the structure was set to be demolished, it was dilapidated due to poor maintenance and alterations, and the architectural richness of the building likely went unnoticed by the vast number of commuters who walked through it daily.
Nevertheless, as an icon of New York City, the loss of Pennsylvania Station has played an important role in shaping New York's preservation history3.



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