reinvention and relics

by sam on 08/26/2009

Last week’s episode of Mad Men focused, in part, on the planned destruction of the beaux-arts masterpiece that was Penn Station in favor of the horrendously ugly madison square garden. Considered one of the greatest architectural travesties in the history of New York City, not even an adman as great as Don Draper could sell the “futuristic” MSG believably. I wasn’t even alive when they tore down Penn Station, but I feel the loss every time I see a photo, or have to take Amtrak. And they’re still trying to fix the error by reshaping the companion post office across the street as a “new-old” railway terminal (one which faces endless delays in its own right).

But the one good thing that the travesty gave us was new rules regarding historic preservation in New York City. Which is the only reason that the New York Central Railroad wasn’t able to do the same thing to Grand Central Terminal (and yes, there were plans on the books to tear that one down as well). Instead, the station was renovated and renewed, and is now considered one of the crown jewels of New York City architecture, one of the most beautiful train stations in the world, and one of my personal favorite places to go. Sometimes I just stop by when I’m in the neighborhood to stare at the ceiling. One of my favorite birthday dinners ever was a spur of the moment decision to eat at MJ’s steakhouse, sitting under the great ceiling. The food was fine, but the atmosphere was what couldn’t be beat. The Summer Streets events that just concluded here in NYC afford pedestrians and cyclists a unique opportunity to stop and take a lingering look at portions of the great station that otherwise go by as a blur in a taxi window.

Now, if only something could be done about the monstrosity of the MetLife building in the background.

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