All Aboard For an Excursion to Madison Square Garden, and the National Horse Show!

In terms of historic preservation in the city of New York, Pennsylvania Station is a a sore spot for many. It was the gorgeous building that we didn’t save, that we couldn’t save. The Beaux-Arts station was a beautiful monument that was torn down, and for what? To be covered over with an arena. For this, Madison Square Garden has drawn the ire of many railfans and history buffs, but in reality the Garden has a longer history than even the original Pennsylvania Station, and is coincidentally linked to the New York and Harlem Railroad.

Ring for the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden
The ring at the second Madison Square Garden is being readied for the National Horse Show.

Originally established in 1879 at East 26th Street and Madison Avenue, the first Madison Square Garden was a roofless arena that sat 10,000 spectators. With the completion of Grand Central Depot in 1871, the New York and Harlem Railroad moved their operations, no longer needing their depot near Madison Avenue. While the land was first used by P.T. Barnum as the “Barnum Hippodrome,” William Kissam Vanderbilt took control of the space two years after his grandfather’s death and renamed it Madison Square Garden. The Garden hosted various sporting events, including the National Horse Show, which would become a yearly tradition at the venue.

Parade of winners
Parade of winners at the 1896 National Horse Show, held annually at Madison Square Garden.

The National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden
The National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden, 1913.

The first Madison Square Garden lasted until 1889, when Vanderbilt sold the property to a group of wealthy investors including J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie. They tore down the first Garden to build the second, designed by prominent architect Stanford White. The second Madison Square Garden opened in 1890 and lasted until 1925. The venue hosted a wide array of events, from boxing matches to plays, circuses, concerts and even the Democratic National Convention. Unlike its predecessor, the second Garden was fully enclosed, allowing events all year long, and in any weather.

Judging at the National Horse Show
Judging at the National Horse Show.

Scenes from the National Horse Show
British officers on their mounts at the 1910 National Horse Show, and horses outside Madison Square Garden. Alfred Vanderbilt, serving as the president of the National Horse Show, first invited the British cavalry to compete in the show in 1909.

The National Horse Show was one of Madison Square Garden’s major events, and was hosted at all four venues to bear the name, up until 1989. First established in 1883 by a collection of affluent members of society, the show was regularly held in November. While the spectators certainly included the rich and powerful, many regular people came to see the show, and some came by train. The New York Central offered special excursion tickets for those looking to go to the 1898 show, and printed an attractive brochure advertising it.

New York Central excursion brochure
A New York Central excursion brochure featuring the National Horse Show.

The brochure advertises that November is, “the best time of the year to visit New York…” which may strike some today as a bit odd. A warm locale like Florida sounds great for a winter vacation, but in the 1880’s anyone who was anyone headed to New York City. Fitting an event established by the affluent, the National Horse Show became a part of the New York social calendar, just as much as the opening of the opera season, or Mrs. Astor’s annual January ball. By summertime the socialites would move on to Newport, Rhode Island and their “cottages”, before returning to the city in November, and beginning the cycle anew.

Catalog for the 1898 National Horse Show
Catalog for the 1898 National Horse Show

Program for the 1898 National Horse Show
Program for the 1898 National Horse Show

The second Madison Square Garden was ultimately demolished, and in its place the New York Life Building was constructed. In 1925 the third arena to bear the name was opened, although it was located on Eighth Avenue between 49th, and not near Madison Square. Coincidentally, the place on which the third Garden was constructed was once a storage barn for trolleys. The third Garden lasted until 1968 when the fourth and current Madison Square Garden opened atop what was once the great Pennsylvania Station.

As for the National Horse Show, the competition is still held, although it now calls the Kentucky Horse Park home.

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New York City’s other great station – more photos from the Farm Security Administration

If you enjoyed our previous set of Farm Security Administration photos, no doubt you will enjoy the ones today, possibly even more so. Captured by Marjorie Collins, another one of the lesser-known FSA photographers, today’s set of photos features New York’s Pennsylvania Station. Taken about a year after the photos we saw last week (these date to August 1942), the war is in full swing, and the station is filled with soldiers. As was the FSA’s goal, these images artfully capture what life was like in the 1940’s.

Now I’m not the biggest fan of the Pennsy, and I don’t frequently post things about Penn Station, but I think this set of photos was too amazing to pass up. We may be celebrating the centennial of Grand Central Terminal, but I think it is also a perfect time to reflect about New York’s other great “temple of transportation,” and its greater significance in terms of historical preservation.

New York's Pennsylvania Station
New York’s Pennsylvania Station, built 1910, demolished 1963.

Grand Central Terminal was still in construction when the Pennsylvania Railroad opened their great station in 1910. Designed by the famous McKim, Mead, and White, the two stations shared a Beaux Arts aesthetic. Both were exquisite New York monuments, and they almost shared the same fate – the wrecking ball. With the decline in rail travel both the New York Central and the Pennsylvania Railroads were strapped for cash and looking to make a buck anywhere they could. With the significant costs to maintain such large stations, the buildings were worth more to them as real estate. In 1963 the gorgeous Penn Station was demolished in order to build Madison Square Garden above.

Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won’t all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes.

–Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the high-profile face of historic preservation in New York City.

I am firmly of the belief that New York could not have two great railroad stations – for it was the destruction of Pennsylvania Station that motivated people to protect the city’s historical landmarks. In 1965, two years after Penn Station’s destruction, New York’s Landmark Preservation Commission was established. Grand Central was declared a landmark, and the New York Central, and later the Penn Central, were not permitted to destroy it – a fight the railroad took all the way up to the Supreme Court. If not for the destruction of Penn Station, it is very possible that we would not be celebrating the centennial of Grand Central right now. So thanks, Penn Station, we shall not forget you.

 
   
  
   
 
  
   
  
 
  
   
  

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Thoughts on Minneapolis’ Stone Arch Bridge, and the Hiawatha Line’s Downtown East – Metrodome station


Early 1900’s panoramic view of the Stone Arch Bridge

Several weeks ago when I interviewed Metro-North’s president, a few people (especially @CapnTransit on twitter) called attention to the question about Millerton – and specifically the “how do you de-map a rail trail,” comment that Mr. Permut made. It is an interesting point – in some ways a rail trail preserves a former railroad’s Right of Way, but the restoration of a rail line from a rail trail is exceedingly rare. Railroad bridges that are converted to rail-trail use are even more problematic. Bridges are not cheap to build – and what happens if at some point in the future we wish to restore the rail? A passenger rail link over the Hudson would be nice – and the likelihood of it happening with the Tappan Zee project is practically non-existent – but let’s not forget that we did have a rail bridge over the Hudson, though it is now the Walkway Over the Hudson.

I’m really divided on my opinion of rail trails – obviously, I’d much rather see it as a railroad. But at the same time, it does preserve a little bit of the history – which is better than it being totally forgotten and lost to time. All of these thoughts came to mind recently when I visited Minneapolis. The beautiful Stone Arch Bridge, built in 1883 by the Great Northern Railway, is now a pedestrian bridge, and part of the Saint Anthony Falls Heritage Trail. The interesting part of the story is that passenger rail travel is being revived in Minnesota – I’ve introduced you to the relatively new Hiawatha Line light rail system there. A second line, the Central Corridor, is currently under construction. This new line will travel from downtown Minneapolis to Saint Paul – a journey that requires a crossing over the Mississippi River.

The map above displays Minneapolis’ river crossings, and their relation to the new light rail system. In order to accommodate the Central Corridor’s crossing over the Mississippi, the Washington Avenue bridge will be modified. It is interesting to note that there are two former railroad bridges – the Stone Arch, and Northern Pacific #9 – that could have been used for this purpose, had they not been converted to pedestrian use. Several other railroad bridges are visible on the map, only one of which is currently in use for passenger rail, MetroTransit’s North Star Line.


Postcards of trains crossing over the bridge. Visible in the background of the second postcard is the Cedar Avenue Bridge (now called the 10th Avenue Bridge), built in 1929. In 1964 construction began on the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge, located in between those two bridges. This was the bridge that tragically collapsed during rush hour in 2007. It has since been replaced by the Saint Anthony Falls bridge.

Though it may no longer be used by the railroad, it is undeniable that the Stone Arch Bridge is quite lovely. It provides attractive views of the river, and if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of a boat passing through the lock at Saint Anthony Falls.


View from the Guthrie Theater… why, oh why, did you have to tint your windows?

   
 
   
 
 
  
 
  
 
  
 
  

If the Stone Arch Bridge is the old version of this post, Downtown East – Metrodome, a few blocks away from the bridge, on the Hiawatha Line would be the new. I think I’ve made it abundantly clear how much I love the public art along the Hiawatha Line – and I think that the art here at Downtown East – Metrodome may be the jewel of the entire system. The massive arches – designed by artist Andrew Leicester – don’t require you to be a rocket scientist to figure out. Created to evoke the image of the Stone Arch Bridge, the arches are decorated with beautiful colorful brickwork. The brick designs are influenced by the clothing patterns worn by the nineteenth-century immigrants to the area.

Leicester is a prolific public artist, and no public artist’s career would be complete without a commission for New York’s Arts for Transit program. Long Island Rail Road riders are more familiar with his piece in the city, however. Located in Penn Station, Leicester’s terra-cotta murals evoke the Penn Station of yesteryear. His blend of art and history is definitely something that I appreciate.

 
  
 
   
 
 
   
 
  

That is about it for today’s visit to Minneapolis – believe it or not, I still have a few more photos from my travels there, which I will likely share in the next few weeks!

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Pennsylvania Railroad stock certificate, depicting Horseshoe Curve in Altoona

A Collection of Railroad-themed Etchings by the American Bank Note Company

A few days ago I posted some lovely illustrations showing the fancy cars that operated on the New York Central and Boston and Albany railroads, all done by the American Bank Note Company. Admittedly, I had never really heard about that company until I saw their signature on the bottom of several of those illustrations. It was an intriguing discovery – not only does the company have roots dating back to the founding of this country, they’re still around today! Over the years they have done the engraving and printing for currency, postage stamps, stock certificates, and even railroad timetables. This style of illustration is what makes me absolutely adore old timetables from the 1800’s.

Because of my love of these illustrations, I’m amassed quite a little collection of them which I would like to share with you all. Though there were other engravers that did similar work, this collection is comprised of railroad-related engravings exclusively done by the American Bank Note Company. Many railroads used their services – you’ll note illustrations for the New York Central, the Pennsylvania Railroad, Grand Trunk Railway, and many others. In some cases I’ve isolated the illustrations from whatever they were a part of, often in the case of stock certificates. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I do… Have a favorite? Tell us in the comments!

 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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Tuesday Tour of the Port Jervis Line: Campbell Hall

 

Early 1900’s views of the Erie’s Campbell Hall station, which was on the Montgomery Branch. The current Campbell Hall station is now located on what was the Graham Line.

As we continue our tour of the Port Jervis line, the next stop we arrive at is Campbell Hall. While the Metro-North facilities here are rather dull, there is a little bit of interesting stuff that does go on at this station. What you’ll immediately notice are the multiple tracks – since the majority of the Port Jervis line is single-tracked. Stowed on a few of the tracks are various train cars, and maybe if you’re lucky you’ll see a locomotive. Though a few of them might belong to Metro-North or New Jersey Transit, the majority probably belongs to the Middletown and New Jersey Railroad, which operates through Campbell Hall.


Postcard view of freight on the Graham Line in Campbell Hall, 1971

Though the Erie did have a station at Campbell Hall, it was not located along this line. When Metro-North took over operations in the 80’s, a small facility was established here, as there were no stations on the Graham Line previously. Like many of the other Port Jervis line facilities we’ve seen, there is not too much here. The low-level platform is partially covered by a canopy, and there is a small shelter to protect riders from the elements. Located inside the shelter are two New Jersey Transit ticket vending machines. The station has a small high-level platform section to accommodate riders in wheelchairs, but is not considered a fully ADA accessible station. Dispersed along the platform are a few planter boxes containing trees… which would probably be a nice touch anywhere else, but we are pretty much located in the wilderness already.


Wilderness case-in-point. You can photograph both trains and wildlife at Campbell Hall. I’ve named this little fellow Paulo coelho.

 

Photos of the Metro-North station at Campbell Hall in the late 80’s. The station has been renovated since, and there is a far nicer shelter for riders. [photo credit]

Campbell Hall was certainly a lot more interesting in the past, with several railroads passing through the small hamlet – but today it is just serviced by Metro-North’s commuter trains, and some occasional freight. On the commuter side of things, a ride from Campbell Hall to Penn Station in the city will take you slightly less than two hours, and to Hoboken about an hour and a half.

Though my stormy-day photographs of Campbell Hall are hardly spectacular, thankfully they are not the worst photos ever taken here – I bestow that honor upon Metro-North itself. One of these days they are totally going to update their site, so it doesn’t say that Campbell Hall is “65.6 miles to Grand Central Terminal” – but that day probably isn’t today.

 
  
   
 
 
  
 
  
 
  
 

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Excerpts from the diary of a train rider

When I started this blog, the majority of it was observations about people I saw on the train, or while waiting for trains. I haven’t really done a post about my observations lately, but for the most part the majority of things I see are remembered as short tidbits, and nothing worth writing an entire post about. If I actually kept a diary, tidbits like these would likely be found inside… just quick thoughts about the things and people that surround me on a day-to-day basis. As I don’t really have anything to post today, I figured I’d leave you with a collection of some of my recent thoughts while riding the train. But rest assured, I am currently working on a pretty big project for the site, and when I (hopefully) debut it next week, I think you’ll all be pretty pleased.


People leave things on the train all the time. I was just thinking the other day, if someone was about to forget their phone, or bag, or wallet, I’d ask them if it were theirs, so they don’t get off the train without it. But then I realized what a terrible person I am – if you were about to forget a bag from Junior’s the only thing I’d say is, “that’s mine!” I don’t want your wallet, or your laptop. Just give me your cheesecake.

Sometimes the guy in the ticket booth at White Plains gets rather excited when he announces trains. Once I heard, “Now on trrrrack one is the train going to… nowhere. Never mind. This train only goes to North White Plains,” and, “Nooooooooowww on trrrrrack one is the 5:59 local trrrrrain to Southeast, making all local stops. Yes, this train will be making all the stops you know and love. Trrrrrrrack one.” I haven’t heard him lately, though. I wonder where he is.

When my train passes Mount Kisco in the evening, there is usually this dark-haired woman named Christine on the platform. I know nothing other than her name, and that she likes to laugh. Sometimes when the doors open I poke my head out and say, “Hello Christine.” I gave her my little card that has this website’s address on it once. Maybe she’s reading this right now. Hello, Christine!

Sometimes I see this girl on the platform when I wait for the train in the morning. She looks like she is in her early twenties, and has quite the assortment of Nike shoes and athletic attire. The only time we ever spoke was when she was drinking a bottle of soda and dropped the cap. We both watched, it was like slow motion, the cap hit the platform and rolled precariously close to the edge. I think I said to her, “Wow. I really thought that was going to fall!”

I have an overactive imagination. I also have a bad habit when I observe people, determining who they seem to resemble physically, and calling them that in my mind thence forward. Regular riders of my morning train are an older Sarah Palin, and an Amy Winehouse – minus the drugs.

I like to read books on the train, and I try to read a book per week. After calculating it out, I really only spend about six hours per week on the train – three of which are reading, and three of which are bullshitting with other people. It isn’t a lot of time when I compare it to hours using the computer. I probably am using the computer for ten hours, if not more, each week day. This is probably why I gained twenty pounds after graduating college.

Usually the train I take in the evening uses M3 equipment… though very rarely we have an M7 instead. The M7’s have that nice seat adjacent to the conductor’s cab, it is dark and quiet and away from all the other people. When I got on the train there was an old man sitting there. The next stop the train was going to be making was a short platform, so the conductor told people in the back of the train to move forward. A woman went to do just that, and the old man sitting by the door there just flipped out. “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK THAT SIGN IS THERE FOR?!?!” he shouted, while pointing at the sign to not cross through the cars while the train is in motion. The woman looked so afraid, like she was almost going to wet herself. The old man was relentless. Later on, after the old man had gotten off, I asked the conductor if he knew who he was. He told me the man worked for Metro North’s safety department. Too bad that detail was conveniently left out of his diatribe. I always wondered if she complained about the crazy man on her train…


In reality this cat’s name is Henry, and he is awesome

Walking to the train station the other day, this strange animal ran out in front of me. It took me a few moments to realize it was a cat, and not an ordinary cat, a three-legged cat. If I had a three-legged cat, I’d name him Tripod.

Sometimes the bus driver really freaks me out. One of these days he’s really going to flip the bus over. A few days ago he accidentally hit the curb so hard I was slammed into the window… and I have a several inch long bruise on my arm to prove it.

I follow @OWNEYtheDOG on twitter. For those who don’t know, Owney was a real dog that used to ride on mail trains back in the day. Owney was apparently murdered – shot dead, and was later brought to the taxidermist. He’s on display at the Post Office Museum in Washington DC. The thing that freaks me out is that whoever does the twitter posts as if they were that stuffed dog. This disturbs me. Even taxidermied dogs are on twitter! Next thing you know, my mother will be on there.

I’m used to people telling me that they like my hat. It does freak me out when they sneak up behind me and attempt to whisper it in my ear. Most especially if they reek of alcohol. However, the thing I really don’t get is why people during the summer ask me where my hat is. I may like hats, but I’m not an idiot.

My grandmother is wonderful. I think it takes only a little sip of alcohol to make her tipsy. She tells lots of good stories then… stories about the original Penn Station, of taking the train all over the country in the ’40s, being afraid her train was going to fall off the Horseshoe Curve… How she’d take the kids on the train and buy the cheaper child ticket, even though some of the kids were too old. Of course my one uncle would admit such to the conductor… the other just had such a bad temper, my grandmother told me she’d buy him rubber dog toys to take for the ride, he’d break all the regular toys.


When I get a text message, my phone makes the sound the M7 trains make. It baffles people at work meetings. It really baffles them when I’m riding my usual train – an M3. But then someone decides they’ll text me five times in quick succession. Then I just look like an idiot.

Everyone always wants to blame Metro-North, but sometimes it is the passengers’ fault that the train is late… like the time there was a man standing in the doorway that refused to move. Despite the conductor yelling at him, he still stalled the train.

I heard some news about banning smoking on the platform. I like this idea. I’d rather not be subjected to your disgusting and headache-inducing habit. Inevitably someone complains about the thought and says, “Remember when they even had smoking cars?” You know what I remember? The tar-black ceiling of Grand Central when I was a kid… all from cigarette smoke. Ah, yes. Nostalgia.

If I had to pick the station with the most obnoxious people, I’d likely pick White Plains. They are like animals there. They’ll push anybody over to board that train, even a little old lady with a cane. Because it is such a populated station, there are always going to be people running for the train and not quite making it. If the conductor kept the doors open for all of them, the train would never leave. When this happens the person usually shouts profanities at the conductor, and probably writes an angry note to Metro-North (I don’t think I could be a conductor, I don’t have thick enough skin). The most amusing part is that White Plains has the most trains of any station on the Harlem Line. In rush hour, there is another train in just five minutes. Is it really worth all that anger?

It is amusing to me how many people still attempt the old trick of hiding in the bathroom to evade paying the fare. Conductors should have mops available on all trains to give to these people. If they aren’t going to pay, and they are going to be in the bathroom, they might as well clean the damn thing while they are there.

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Looking back, and looking forward – a photographic to-do list

While cleaning the other day I found some old photos of my first long distance railroad trip and I wanted to share. The photos have to be at least thirteen years old, I remember leaving from Penn Station and going down to Jacksonville, Florida, and then later leaving from DeLand station back to Penn. I don’t think I really cared all that much about trains back then, but I sure was mesmerized with that Solari departure board that used to be in Penn Station.

 
   

Most typical of me, there is a photo of a cat in there. I don’t recall much about the cat, but based on the fur coloring visible in the photo, the cat is a she (or a rare genetic aberration). I remember that cat hung out at the station, and of course I hung out with her while waiting for my train. Amusingly, the DeLand station’s wikipedia entry mentions the cat, and how she often will greet passengers disembarking from the train on the platform. Whether the cat is the same or not, or possibly a descendant of the cat in my photo, I have no idea. My grandmother is going to be heading down by train to DeLand sometime in March, so I told her to keep her eyes open for the cat. I could always call the station and ask about her, but then they would find out what you guys already know – that I’m just a tad crazy.

Those old photos were of course taken with a real film camera. Honestly, I never really liked film all that much. I’ve done the whole film thing, from shooting to self developing, which I especially loathed (imagine me, with my poor coordination, standing in the blackness of the darkroom attempting to roll my film onto the spool for processing and failing miserably). I never had much money growing up, and film and developing was always costly. Digital gives me the ability to shoot a million different frames of the same thing from various angles, and then decide which I like best – without worrying in my mind about wasting film exposures and money in development.

All this thought about my old photography is making me think about what my goals are for this year. What places I’d like to go see and photograph, and then post on this blog. The whole lack of a car thing makes some of this difficult, and it is likely I won’t be able to visit all of these places this year. But these are just some ideas…

Railroad Museum of Long Island – Riverhead, New York
Vanderbilt Mansions in Rhode Island – The Breakers and Marble House
Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site – Hyde Park, New York
Vanderbilt Museum – Centerport, New York
Sharon Station – Old Harlem station in Amenia
Craryville Station – The other remaining Harlem station that I’ve not been to

At the end of April I will be heading to Africa for a little bit of adventure. I’ll be going on safari in South Africa and Botswana, as well as visiting Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Victoria Falls. I’ll get the chance to photograph the Cape Town Railway Station, as well as Africa’s largest railway station: Johannesburg Park Station. I’m also hoping to take a Metro Train to Simonstown as well as a journey through the Karoo desert to Johannesburg on the Premier Classe Train.

Unrelated to trains, but keeping up with my desire to visit really strange locales, my friend has a strong desire to go and see Rabbit Hash, Kentucky. The mayor of Rabbit Hash is a dog. Along the way, however, we would stop at Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, which looks like quite the gorgeous building.

Most notably, I will continue with my station tours whenever spring finally comes and this snow has melted. It was up in the air between either the Hudson or the New Haven lines, but I finally decided upon doing a Tour of the New Haven Line. Just as I did with the tour of the Harlem Line, I will post a new station each Tuesday.

For now that is about all I can think of. I’m very open to suggestions for interesting places to visit, so if you have an idea, be sure to comment and let me know!

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nybge

Photos from the Holiday Train Show at the Botanical Garden

Several weeks ago I got a chance to take my first visit to the New York Botanical Garden to see the Holiday Train Show. For all the folks out there that have any experience with model railroading, you are familiar with the fact that it is a rather expensive hobby. I can only imagine how much the setup at the Botanical Garden took, not only in dollars, but in time as well. The amazing array of recognizable current and historical landmarks is astounding, and created of plant matter. I was quite fascinated with the beautiful textures: the layered leaves and twigs that comprised the roofs, covered bridges made of tree barks, building details made of seeds and acorns, and the thin imitation of glass illuminated from the inside. Current landmarks, such as Grand Central Terminal, stand side by side with recreations of the city’s long-gone masterpieces: from the house of William Kissam Vanderbilt that once stood on Fifth Avenue, to the stunning Pennsylvania Station.

I would definitely consider the Holiday Train Show to be a must-see holiday event. You still have a bit of time to get over to the Botanical Garden and see it, if you haven’t done so already. The show runs until January 9th. If you have the ability to visit on a weekday, I would highly suggest it. The weekend afternoon time I visited was quite busy, and I would have loved to not have to get kicked, or have my camera tugged on, by various small children. You can even purchase your tickets to the show online. And of course, getting to the Botanical Garden is easy on the Harlem Line via Metro North.

  
  
 
   
   
 
  
 
   
 
   
 
 
 
 
   
 

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Friday’s from the historical archive: old Penn Station, Jackie Kennedy and the Grand Central we almost lost

A few weeks ago when I posted some photos of New Haven’s Union Station a reader commented about how nice the station was, compared to some of MTA’s other stations. The example given was Penn Station. Not only did the comment remind me of some old photos I saw of Penn Station, but a post that I had started writing back in March and had never posted. And that post was about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

In comparison with other stations, Penn Station today isn’t too noteworthy in an architectural sense. Of course when I talk about Pennsylvania station, I am referring to the station in New York City. The name had been used by the Pennsylvania Railroad at several of their other stations, including one in Newark, which occasionally causes confusion. But considering that the station is the most used in the country, you’d think it would look nicer. And of course it would have, had the original not been demolished to make room for the new Madison Square Garden.

The original station was completed in 1910 and was designed by McKim, Mead and White. By the 1950’s the railroad industry was hurting, and in a move to attempt to make some money, they proposed the demolition of the station in order to use the “air rights” and build something over it. The station would be located under street level, and Madison Square Garden and some office buildings would be above it. Despite some protests, the glorious station was demolished in 1963. What exactly does all of this have to do with Jackie Kennedy? The loss of Penn Station eventually led to the formation of a Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the New York City Landmarks Law. It was the Commission that protested when the New York Central decided that they too wanted to demolish Grand Central and build above it. And one of the most prominent members fighting for Grand Central was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

The fight to save Grand Central went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1968 two designs submitted to replace the station were rejected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Supreme Court upheld the decision in 1978. Grand Central would not be demolished. In 1998 after an overhaul Grand Central was rededicated, and for her endeavors to save the station a plaque honoring Jackie Kennedy was placed in Vanderbilt Hall. The last time I was in Grand Central I found the plaque and took a picture. It reads:

In an age when few people sought to preserve the architectural wonders that are a daily reminder of our rich and glorious past, a brave woman rose in protest to save this terminal from demolition. Because of her tireless and valiant efforts, it stands today as a monument to those who came before us and built the greatest city known to mankind. Preserving this great landmark is one of her many enduring legacies. The people of New York are forever grateful.

I’m going to leave off with a few quotes, a rededication newspaper article, and a random thought. If as a child I had never felt the awe of stepping into the gorgeous Grand Central, a particularly fond memory, would this site even be here? The station utterly captivated my thoughts, and despite all these years, I can’t help but smile every time I step into that main concourse. So thanks, Jackie, thank you very much.

Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters.

If we don’t care about our past, we cannot hope for our future.

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The Fight for the Solari in New Haven

Despite growing up in Connecticut, about halfway in between Waterbury and Danbury, both New Haven line branches, I’ve only been on the New Haven line once. It was always easier to cross the state border and get on in Brewster, or Southeast (then Brewster North). I’ve never been to New Haven’s Union Station, although I’ve certainly driven by it. But I can certainly relate to the current New Haven train riders that are now fighting for the last Solari departure board in use on Metro-North. I don’t quite know why, but I really loved the Solari board that used to be in Grand Central when I was very young. I remember standing under the Solari that was for Amtrak in Penn Station many years ago when I took my first ride on Amtrak, going to Florida with my grandmother. I even remember the board in use also in Penn Station for the Long Island Rail Road, under which everyone would stand waiting for the information on their trains to flip up, and when it did, would race like marathon runners to their tracks. I remember all these, but today, they are all gone.

Most unfortunately, the New Haven Independent reported yesterday of the plans to remove the Solari board from New Haven’s Union station, and replace it with an LCD at some point next year. The article is full of comments, and people that want to save the board. A commenter going by the name of Erin brings up a good point:

My two cents: if the Solari sign is hard to maintain, use the $5 million it was going to cost for LED signs as a reserve fund to fix the Solari sign if ever needed.

I really do love these boards, and I would hate to see it get one more of them taken down. It ought to be kept for its historic nature, it is the last of its kind on Metro-North, and one of the few left in the United States. If the sign is going to get removed, I would love to see someone, like the Transit Museum, acquire it and put it on display. Considering the board is in Connecticut, however, I am unsure if it would even be considered for it to go to the New York Transit Museum, even though Metro-North is represented by the museum.

Though the fight is on to save the board. A group has been made on facebook called Save Solari, and there is also a page on SeeClickFix. As for me, I do believe a photography trip is in order, especially if the unfortunate happens, and the board is taken down.

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