Sunday, July 20, 2008
NonFiction Monday: Old Penn Station
Old Penn Station by William Low, Henry Holt 2007
In the forward, William Low decries the passing of Penn Station in New York City when landmarks like Grand Central Terminal have undergone a rebirth and are thriving. While working on his masters he took the opportunity to research and paint the story of the Pennsylvania Railroad's "palace" that would become Pennsylvania Station. The station thrived until after WWII. Then the decision was made to tear down the building. Low documents the destruction as statues are hoisted away and the rubble is dumped in the the New Jersey Meadowlands.
He takes us under the Hudson river as workers tunnel in the yellow glow of lamps. Sunlight streams through the arched glass while the metal gridwork shadows the passengers as they hurry for their trains. Within the book's height of only 32 cm., he pulls the reader into the magnificent space as porters carry luggage, passengers dine in a fine restaurant by candlelight or get a haircut. From different perspectives, we sense the soaring ceiling and the spacious but crowed concourse. Then, having experienced the space and the beauty, we feel the frustration and sadness as the station is torn down around us.
Hear and see William Low describe the project.
This book is a tribute to a building and the people who built it and a lament for an opportunity, lost.