Fifty years ago tomorrow, New York's brightest architects and artists took up their neatly printed picket signs and paraded in front of the original Pennsylvania Station, hoping to save the monumental building from demolition. Peter Samton and Diana Goldstein organized the protest, and Aline B. Saarinen (widow of Eero Saarinen), Philip Johnson, Jordan Gruzen, Elliott Willensky and others were all present. The protest came more than a year after developer Irving Mitchell Felt and the Pennsylvania Railroad announced their plans to tear down the station to build Madison Square Garden and the dungeon-like Penn Station we know today. Samton says they were slow to fight back because of "sheer disbelief." "It was impossible to think that this monumental building was going to be demolished to make way for something that would make more money for the landowners," he told the Times.
For the next year, the architects fought hard to stop the destruction of McKim, Mead & White's masterpiece, meeting with the Mayor, founding a new group, and getting front-page coverage in the Times. But we know how the story turns out; a year later, the wrecking ball started swinging and the station was completely gone by 1966. Today, Goldstein calls the demolition a "moral outrage," adding, "We knew we wouldn’t win, but we did hope to change the climate."
Click through for more historical details and personal anecdotes from Samton and Goldstein.
· 50 Years Ago, Sharply Dressed Protesters Stood Up for a Train Station They Revered [NYT]