During the first half of the 20th century, the original Pennsylvania Station was one of New York City's grandest landmarks, a palace in the middle of Manhattan. William Low's glorious illustrations pay close attention to detail while still encompassing the large-scale grandeur of Penn Station. Read more...
During the first half of the 20th century, the original Pennsylvania Station was one of New York City's grandest landmarks, a palace in the middle of Manhattan. William Low's glorious illustrations pay close attention to detail while still encompassing the large-scale grandeur of Penn Station. "Old Penn Station" follows a very specific piece of New York City history, but it's not just a New York book. The author's research carefully addresses the whole history of the building, from construction to destruction, ending with an acknowledgment of its lasting legacy in terms of historical preservation. Spaces can be powerful, and "Old Penn Station" honors one particular powerful space which is sure to engender discussion about other historical buildings and monuments all across the nation.
This is a classic, beautiful book for history lovers, train lovers, and art lovers alike.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 49.
- Review Date: 2007-04-16
- Reviewer: Staff
In an introductory note, Low (Chinatown) explains that when he selected New York's original Pennsylvania Station as the subject of his master's thesis, he embarked on a journey to bring the landmark "back to life." Here he does so gracefully, through direct yet lyrical prose and dark paintings that range from close-up images to expansive panoramas, and from grainy to sharply focused. Outlining the history of the station, Low notes that the then-powerful Pennsylvania Railroad Company was determined to drop its New York-bound passengers in Manhattan, rather than have them take a ferry to the island from New Jersey, and "wanted to do it with style." After a renowned architectural firm and famous sculptor were hired, a tunnel was built under the Hudson River and the palace-like structure was opened in 1910. Narrative and art usher readers into the station's bustling concourse (which "looked like a magical spider-web of metal and glass"), where they will appreciate how for travelers of the era the terminal "was a magical experience." That, of course, makes the depiction of the grand station's 1963 demolition all the sadder. Yet Low concludes on a heartening note, observing that public outrage at Penn Station's razing led to the founding of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has saved other historic buildings—including Grand Central Terminal—from a similar fate. Indeed, Low's effort soundly reinforces his concluding message that buildings are "not just concrete and steel. They are the heart and soul of all great cities." Ages 5-9. (Apr.)