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New York’s Old Penn Station: Fascinating Photos that Capture the Magnificent Beauty and Demolition of Historic Landmark

The original Pennsylvania Station was one of New York City’s most significant landmarks during the first half of the twentieth century, a palace in the middle of Manhattan. The majestic building stood in New York City from 1910 to 1963, but its memory continues to live to day.

In the late 1890s, Pennsylvania Railroad leaders Alexander Cassatt and Samuel Rea pioneered two feasts. To reach Manhattan, a global center of commerce, they would first need to lay tracks in the turbulent Hudson and East Rivers. Tunneling was an idea few were familiar with, so they were visionaries. Whether they were rich or poor, everyone saw Rome as if it was in their backyard. It was a station that inspired the world, even if only for half a century. The Gare du Quai d’Orsay influenced the planners of Penn Station in Paris and Baths of Caracalla in Rome. An architectural wonder transformed a point of destination into a wonderland.

The original Penn Station building was designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1910 and occupied two city blocks from Seventh Avenue to Eighth Avenue and from 31st to 33rd Streets in Midtown Manhattan. For the first time, direct rail access to New York City was possible from the south. The train shed and the head house of the company was considered masterpieces of the Beaux-Arts style and one of the most significant architectural achievements of New York City. 11 platforms were serving 21 tracks, roughly the same layout as the current Penn Station. The original station was among the first to have separate waiting rooms for arriving and departing passengers, and these were among the city’s largest public spaces when it was built. It consisted of 14,000 m3 of pink granite, 1,700 m3 of interior stone, 27,000 short tons of steel, 48,000 short tons of brick, and 30,000 light bulbs. It stood 69 feet (21 m) above the street on average, but its maximum height was 153 feet (47 m). Penn Station was surrounded by 25 acres of the track. Many Roman structures in the waiting room, including Caracalla, Diocletian, and Titus. The room resembled St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in size. The lower walls were travertine, while the upper walls were decorated with a steel framework clad in plaster. According to an Interstate Commerce Commission report, the Pennsylvania Railroad spent $114 million on the station and associated tunnels upon completion (equivalent to $2.5 billion in 2021). Penn Station opened with 144 trains per hour on its 21 tracks and 11 platforms. There were 1,000 trains scheduled every weekday when Penn Station opened. The station had begun to decline in the 1930s. In 1945, more than 100 million passengers traveled through Penn Station during World War II. After the advent of the Jet Age and the construction of the Interstate Highway System, the station began to decline.

The demolition of Penn Station

In 1962, plans were revealed to demolish the terminal and build Madison Square Garden. Some opposed demolition, questioning whether preserving a building intended to serve as a monument to a past era and add value to the city’s infrastructure was a wise decision. Even though it was contrary to their style, modern architects rushed to save the ornate building. At rallies, they chanted, “Don’t Amputate, Renovate. Despite widespread opposition to Penn Station’s demolition, the New York City Department of City Planning voted in January 1963 to demolish the station that summer. The destruction of Penn Station led to the Landmarks Commission and saved other historic buildings like Grand Central Station.

#1 Pennsylvania Station at 34th Street and 7th Avenue is shown below Madison Square Garden, 1940

Pennsylvania Station at 34th Street and 7th Avenue is shown below Madison Square Garden, 1940

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#2 New York’s famed Penn Station as seen from the roof of the Hotel New Yorker, 1940

New York's famed Penn Station as seen from the roof of the Hotel New Yorker, 1940

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#3 Pennsylvania Station, 1950s

Pennsylvania Station, 1950s

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#4 Passengers standing in the huge New York Pennsylvania Station Hall. New York, 1950s

Passengers standing in the huge New York Pennsylvania Station Hall. New York, 1950s

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#5 Exterior of Penn Station and traffic along Seventh Avenue, New York, New York, early 1950s.

Exterior of Penn Station and traffic along Seventh Avenue, New York, New York, early 1950s.

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#6 View of a crowd of people in the interior of the old Pennsylvania Rail Road Station, New York City, 1950

View of a crowd of people in the interior of the old Pennsylvania Rail Road Station, New York City, 1950

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#7 Telegraph stations for political writers at the Republican, 1940

Telegraph stations for political writers at the Republican, 1940

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#8 Crowds at Pennsylvania Station leaving New York for the holidays, 1948

Crowds at Pennsylvania Station leaving New York for the holidays, 1948

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#9 Railroad Strike at Pennsylvania station at 11.45 and all was, 1948

Railroad Strike at Pennsylvania station at 11.45 and all was, 1948

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#10 Reunited Husband and Wife Sharing Soda, 1944

Reunited Husband and Wife Sharing Soda, 1944

Some months ago, Apple bid his wife farewell, presumably for the duration, and was sent to the U.S. Naval Training Station. A few days ago, Mrs. Apple, who had been attending a school in New York, was transferred to Sampson, where she lost no tine locating her husband. They are celebrating their reunion by sharing a soda at one of the ship's service cafeterias.

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#11 Waitress Presenting a Menu, 1943

Waitress Presenting a Menu, 1943

Now that the men have left their jobs to serve in Uncle Sams armed forces and was plants, women have been called in as replacements. Betty Carrington shows the menu to a passenger in the dining car at Penn Station just before the train departs for Philadelphia.

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#12 American servicemen with a smiling young woman in the canteen at Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1943

American servicemen with a smiling young woman in the canteen at Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1943

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#13 Soldiers Waiting for Train, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1942

Soldiers Waiting for Train, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1942

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#14 People Waiting for Trains, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1942

People Waiting for Trains, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1942

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#15 Crowds on the concourse at Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1942.

Crowds on the concourse at Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1942.

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#16 Pennsylvania Station in New York pictured from the corner of Seventh Avenue, 1940

Pennsylvania Station in New York pictured from the corner of Seventh Avenue, 1940

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#17 Commuters wait for the train at Penn Station, New York, early 1940s.

Commuters wait for the train at Penn Station, New York, early 1940s.

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#18 View of the front facade of Pennsylvania Station, New York, mid 1930s.

View of the front facade of Pennsylvania Station, New York, mid 1930s.

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#19 Wildly cheering, 3,000 men, women and children gather at Pen, 1933

Wildly cheering, 3,000 men, women and children gather at Pen, 1933

Wildly cheering, 3,000 men, women and children gather at Pennsylvania Station to greet Samuel Leibowitz, defender of the Scottsboro boys. The crowd hoists Leibowitz on their shoulders in tumultuous reception. Leibowitz declared case would be carried to Supreme Court.

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#20 Ethel Barrymore with Two Train Engineers, 1933

Ethel Barrymore with Two Train Engineers, 1933

British Rail Men Ride Broadway Limited. William Gilbertson and J. Jackson, engineer and stoker, respectively of London, Midland and Scottish Railway's ace train, The Royal Scot, now on exhibition at the Chicago World Fair, rode on another crack train during their visit to the United States. These two British railroad men, who have piloted one of the world's fastest passenger trains for many years between London and Edinburgh were guests of the Pennsylvania Railroad and road the Broadway Limited, both eastbound and westbound, within 48 hours.

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#21 Interior of Pennsylvania Station, 1940s

Interior of Pennsylvania Station, 1940s

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#22 Interior of Pennsylvania Station, 1924

Interior of Pennsylvania Station, 1924

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#23 Concourse Level of Pennsylvania Station, New York, 1911

Concourse Level of Pennsylvania Station, New York, 1911

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#24 A view of the inside architecture of Pennsylvania Station designed by McKim, Mead and White, 1911

A view of the inside architecture of Pennsylvania Station designed by McKim, Mead and White, 1911

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#25 Main Waiting Room, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1910

Main Waiting Room, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1910

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#26 Concourse, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1905

Concourse, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1905

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#27 Soldiers smoke and stand with a young woman while waiting in the Pennsylvania railroad station, New York City, 1942

Soldiers smoke and stand with a young woman while waiting in the Pennsylvania railroad station, New York City, 1942

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#28 Penn Station, New York, 1930s

Penn Station, New York, 1930s

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#29 Crowd outside Pennsylvania Station wait to see Scottsboro boys, 1940

Crowd outside Pennsylvania Station wait to see Scottsboro boys, 1940

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#30 Pedestrians and cars bustle past the doric colonnade of Pennsylvania Station.

Pedestrians and cars bustle past the doric colonnade of Pennsylvania Station.

When the railroad lost its money, rights to the building were sold. It was destroyed between 1963 and 1966, and replaced with Madison Square Garden.

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#31 Pennsylvania Station, 1936

Pennsylvania Station, 1936

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#32 Broadway Limited Beginning its First Run

Broadway Limited Beginning its First Run

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#33 Railway Station Building, 1935

Railway Station Building, 1935

Black and white photograph of a small-town railway station building, by Walker Evans, American photographer known for his work for the Farm Security Administration documenting the effects of the Great Depression, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1935.

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#34 A group of cars parked outside of Pennsylvania Railroad Station, 1935

A group of cars parked outside of Pennsylvania Railroad Station, 1935

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#35 Interior of Pennsylvania Station, 1934

Interior of Pennsylvania Station, 1934

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#36 A cheering, milling crowd carries Samuel, 1933

A cheering, milling crowd carries Samuel, 1933

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#37 Lilyan Tashman Waving in Doorway at Penn Station, 1933

Lilyan Tashman Waving in Doorway at Penn Station, 1933

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#38 Central Hall, Pennsylvania Station, New York (Pennsylvania Railroad Company)’, 1930.

Central Hall, Pennsylvania Station, New York (Pennsylvania Railroad Company)', 1930.

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#39 Man Selling Apples on 8th Avenue, 1930

Man Selling Apples on 8th Avenue, 1930

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#40 A man approaches the top of an escalator at Pennsylvania Railroad Station, New York, 1940

A man approaches the top of an escalator at Pennsylvania Railroad Station, New York, 1940

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#41 Penn (Pennsylvania) Station, 1929

Penn (Pennsylvania) Station, 1929

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#42 View of the Great Gate room of the neo-classical Pennsylvania Station, 1925

View of the Great Gate room of the neo-classical Pennsylvania Station, 1925

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#43 Pennsylvania Station and Avenue in New York, modelled on the Baths of Coracalla.

Pennsylvania Station and Avenue in New York, modelled on the Baths of Coracalla.

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#44 Pennsylvania Station on Seventh Avenue, New York, 1923.

Pennsylvania Station on Seventh Avenue, New York, 1923.

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#45 Suffragists at Pennsylvania Station, 1915

Suffragists at Pennsylvania Station, 1915

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#46 Exterior View of Pennsylvania Railroad Station, 1915

Exterior View of Pennsylvania Railroad Station, 1915

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#47 Aerial View of Pennsylvania Railroad Station, 1913

Aerial View of Pennsylvania Railroad Station, 1913

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#48 An electric engine exiting one of the tunnels at Pennsylvania Station, New York City, published by Success Postal Card Co, 1912.

An electric engine exiting one of the tunnels at Pennsylvania Station, New York City, published by Success Postal Card Co, 1912.

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#49 View of the since demolished Pennsylvania Railroad Station as seen from Gimbals, 1912

View of the since demolished Pennsylvania Railroad Station as seen from Gimbals, 1912

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#50 Sunlight cast through the large windows of a vaulted hall in Pennsylvania Station plays across the columns on the wall as commuters below rush to catch their trains., 1911

Sunlight cast through the large windows of a vaulted hall in Pennsylvania Station plays across the columns on the wall as commuters below rush to catch their trains., 1911

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#51 Interior main concourse of Penn Station (Pennsylvania Station), New York, 1911

Interior main concourse of Penn Station (Pennsylvania Station), New York, 1911

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#52 Interior Entry Hall & Ticket Office of Penn Station, 1911

Interior Entry Hall & Ticket Office of Penn Station, 1911

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#53 Interior Entry Hall & Ticketing Office of Penn Station, 1911

Interior Entry Hall & Ticketing Office of Penn Station, 1911

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#54 View of the Pennsylvania Railroad Station, New York, early 1910s.

View of the Pennsylvania Railroad Station, New York, early 1910s.

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#55 Exterior view of the east side of Pennsylvania Station, New York, 1911

Exterior view of the east side of Pennsylvania Station, New York, 1911

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#56 Track Level Showing Stairway and Elevators, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1910

Track Level Showing Stairway and Elevators, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1910

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#57 Arcade Entrance to Loggia and Main Waiting Room, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1910

Arcade Entrance to Loggia and Main Waiting Room, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1910

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#58 Interior view of the train concourse at Pennsylvania Station (McKim, Mead, and White, architects), 1910

Interior view of the train concourse at Pennsylvania Station (McKim, Mead, and White, architects), 1910

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#59 Pennsylvania Station, on 34th Street between Seventh and Eighth, in the year construction was completed, 1910

Pennsylvania Station, on 34th Street between Seventh and Eighth, in the year construction was completed, 1910

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#60 Commuters crowd the terminal of Pennsylvania Station, preparing to leave town for the holidays, New York City.

Commuters crowd the terminal of Pennsylvania Station, preparing to leave town for the holidays, New York City.

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#61 Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1910

Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1910

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#62 Track Level and Concourse, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1910

Track Level and Concourse, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1910

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#63 Concourse, Exit to 33rd Street, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1910

Concourse, Exit to 33rd Street, Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 1910

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#64 Pennsylvania Station, High Angle View, New York City, 1910

Pennsylvania Station, High Angle View, New York City, 1910

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#65 Subway and Train Station In New York Around 1904

Subway and Train Station In New York Around 1904

The train in this view starts from the lower level of the Pennsylvania Station on Manhattan Island and goes under the East River and far out on Long Island.

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#66 West Street Looking North from Cortlandt Street, 1900s

West Street Looking North from Cortlandt Street, 1900s

Starin Line and Lackawanna & Western Railroad pier, American Line pier, and Pennsylvania Railroad passenger station visible.

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#67 Pennsylvania Station at 34th Street and 7th Avenue is shown below Madison Square Garden.

Pennsylvania Station at 34th Street and 7th Avenue is shown below Madison Square Garden.

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#68 Interior View of Pennsylvania Railroad Station

Interior View of Pennsylvania Railroad Station

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#69 Pennsylvania Station in New York City, 1910s

Pennsylvania Station in New York City, 1910s

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#70 Passengers Waiting for Trains at Penn Station, 1910s

Passengers Waiting for Trains at Penn Station, 1910s

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#71 Pennsylvania Railroad Station with Christmas Decorations, 1915

Pennsylvania Railroad Station with Christmas Decorations, 1915

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#72 Soldiers Lifting Casket of Emilio Carranza

Soldiers Lifting Casket of Emilio Carranza

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#73 Interior View of Pennsylvania Railroad Station.

Interior View of Pennsylvania Railroad Station.

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#74 The Jeffersonian, a de-luxe streamliner (streamlined train) with Pullman sleeping cars that was introduced by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1941.

The Jeffersonian, a de-luxe streamliner (streamlined train) with Pullman sleeping cars that was introduced by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1941.

to the Pennsylvania Station in New York City, the casket was taken to his hometown in Pennsylvania for burial.

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#75 New York City’s Pennsylvania Station

New York City's Pennsylvania Station

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#76 Penn Station IE Pennsylvania Station Arcade, 1895

Penn Station IE Pennsylvania Station Arcade, 1895

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#77 Demolition of Penn Station during renovation of Madison Square Garden.

Demolition of Penn Station during renovation of Madison Square Garden.

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#78 Ground level view of the remains of Pennsylvania Station during its demolition, New York, New York, May 29, 1966.

Ground level view of the remains of Pennsylvania Station during its demolition, New York, New York, May 29, 1966.

Though the station was ultimately destroyed, it provided the impetus for the creation of New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has been able to save thousands of other NYC structures, including Grand Central Station.

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#79 Penn Station, during the Demolition, 1965

Penn Station, during the Demolition, 1965

During the demolition, commuters were still able to wait for trains in a cordoned off-center section of the main floor.

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#80 Interior view of the original Pennsylvania Station ongoing demolition work, New York, 1965

Interior view of the original Pennsylvania Station ongoing demolition work, New York, 1965

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#81 Penn Station demolition, 1965

Penn Station demolition, 1965

Pennsylvania Station shows commuters at lockers and as they wait for trains in a cordoned off-center section of the main floor (at left) during the station's demolition.

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#82 Commuters on their way through a cordoned off-center section of the main floor (at left) during the station’s demolition, 1965

Commuters on their way through a cordoned off-center section of the main floor (at left) during the station's demolition, 1965

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#83 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#84 Penn Station, during the Demolition, 1965

Penn Station, during the Demolition, 1965

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#85 Penn Station, During the Demolition

Penn Station, During the Demolition

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#86 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#87 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#88 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#89 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#90 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#91 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#92 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#93 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#94 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#95 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#96 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#97 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

During the demolition, commuters were still able to wait for trains in a cordoned off-center section of the main floor.

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#98 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#99 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#100 Penn Station during the demolition.

Penn Station during the demolition.

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#101 Taxi Ramp of The Old Penn Station Just Before the Time of Its Demolition.

Taxi Ramp of The Old Penn Station Just Before the Time of Its Demolition.

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#102 Penn Scaffolding.

Penn Scaffolding.

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#103 Protesters marching with placards outside Penn Station to save the building from demolition, New York City. Their signs read ‘Preserve Our Heritage’ and ‘Stop Demolition.

Protesters marching with placards outside Penn Station to save the building from demolition, New York City. Their signs read 'Preserve Our Heritage' and 'Stop Demolition.

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#104 Penn Station Protests, 1963

Penn Station Protests, 1963

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#105 Demolition of Pennsylvania Railroad Station at Penn Plaza

Demolition of Pennsylvania Railroad Station at Penn Plaza

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#106 New York’s Pennsylvania Station, 1935

New York’s Pennsylvania Station, 1935

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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