Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The following caught my eye because a) New York City’s Grand Central Terminal is a marvel and b) I’m writing this post on a train to Washington, DC that is, at this moment, pulling out of the city’s charmless “new” Pennsylvania Station.

Grand Central Terminal will celebrate its 100th anniversary in February 2013, and in honor of the occasion the New York Transit Museum is organizing an exhibit that will occupy the station’s Vanderbilt Hall during its centennial month. According to the New York Times’ City Room blog, Transit Museum archivist Carey Stumm is looking for donations (preferred) or loans (also acceptable) of, among other things:
  • Uniforms, caps, and badges worn by employees of the New York Central, the Metro-North, and other railroads associated with the station
  • Ashtrays, coat hooks, clocks, baggage carts, and gate curtains associated with the station
  • Home movies and amateur photographs
  • Old railway timetables and tickets
  • Matchbooks and menus from the station’s shops and restaurants
  • Posters, advertisements, and other materials associated with campaign speeches, concerts, and other public events that took place at the station
If you have any materials that might be of interest to Stumm and the other exhibit planners, photograph your item or items, briefly describe each item and its origins and current location, and send your photos and descriptions to carey.stumm[at]nyct.com. The exhibit planners have -- bless them -- promised to respond to every message they get.

101 East 42nd Street - Park Av... Digital ID: 1558218. New York Public Library
Wurts Brothers, photographer. 101 East 42nd Street-Park Avenue [Grand Central Terminal], ca. 1920. New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwartzman Building, Irma and Paul Milstein Divison of United State History, Local History and Genealogy. Digital ID: 1558218. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The beauty above is, thankfully, still with us.

Pennsylvania Railroad Station, Part of General Waiting Room, New York City, July 1938 [?] New York (State). Education Dept. Division of Visual Instruction. Instructional Lantern Slides, 1911-1925. Series A3045-78. Lantern slide DnNP4. Image courtesy of the New York State Archives.

Sadly, this gem is not. Back in the 1960s, a bunch of powerful and profit-hungry people decided that the above station should be replaced with the dank, low-ceilinged mediocrity pictured below. The only truly good thing about the “improved” Penn Station is that its opening led to a public outcry against plans to replace the existing Grand Central Terminal with a similarly uninspiring facility -- and against a host of other efforts to demolish architectural treasures in the name of progress and efficiency. Instead of being lost to history, Grand Central Terminal is poised to enter its second century with a flourish.

Pennsylvania Station, New York City, 10 August 2010.

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