Did New York Penn Station really die in vain?

Preserving New York

All of my regular readers know that I follow the birth pains of the new Moynihan Station in the Farley Post Office (1, 2, 3, and 4). With that in mind, I found the following of note.

Since I first learned of the destruction of Penn Station, I have always heard that the noble old station did not die in vain, and that the horror of her destruction gave birth to the modern preservation movement. Apparently, that is not a universally held cause-and-effect relationship.

In a post on the NYT City Room blog, Sewell Chan covers a new book by Anthony Wood, called Preserving new York. It seems Mr. Wood is “the founder and chairman of the New York Preservation Archive Project and executive director of the Ittleson Foundation, a private philanthropy,” and he has written this book which “traces the history of the modern preservation system all the way back to the City Beautiful movement of the early 20th century.”

As the original post explains:

Mr. Wood noted that two events occurred on Oct. 28, 1963, relating to landmarks preservation: a gathering at the Museum of the City of New York to celebrate Alan Burnham’s book “New York Landmarks,” and the lowering of the eagles from their perch atop the old Penn Station, marking the start of the demolition.

“What grew out of the rubble of Pennsylvania Station was the powerful myth that New York’s Landmarks Law owed its very existence to the loss of that station,” he said. “As wonderful a morality tale as that has become, it has just one problem: It just isn’t true. It’s robbed us of 50 years of wonderful history that is inspiring, informative and instructive.”

He added that his book marked an effort to “reclaim” that history.


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