Once upon a time there was an elegant, Beaux-Art train station in Manhattan named after the Pennsylvania Railroad system that built beautiful terminals for its lines across the country. Designed by the legendary architecture firm McKim, Mead, and White, “Old Pennsylvania Station” took nine years to build and opened in 1910.
It was a masterwork of pink granite, marble columns, and arched-glass windows and stretched two city blocks from Seventh to Eighth Avenue between 31st Street and 33rd Street. Part of the building’s iconic ceiling was made from glass and wrought-iron.
Train travel at Penn Station and throughout the country peaked during WWII. Afterwards though, rail travel declined significantly with the advent of jet air travel and the interstate highway system, and Pennsylvania Railroad failed to maintain the station because of their financial woes.
The above-ground structures were replaced by Madison Square Garden, while the underground portion of the station remained. The current Penn Station has three levels of mostly low-ceilinged passageways and is not exactly a place beloved by most New Yorkers.
It is then with great excitement that we greet the brand new Daniel Patrick Moynihan train hall that just opened on New Years Day. This extension to Penn Station takes over the majority of the massive post office that sits on 8th avenue between 31s and 33rd streets directly across the street from Madison Square Garden.
Here are some details of the new train hall provided in a press release by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo:
Continuing from the Governor’s press release: “In partnership with the Public Art Fund, Moynihan Train Hall features a program of ambitious permanent art installations from three of the world’s leading artists—Stan Douglas, Kehinde Wiley, and artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset. The landmark artworks created are emblematic of the dynamism and transformation that are quintessential to New York and this new transportation gateway.
Ceiling installations by Kehinde Wiley (the three panels in the images below) and Elmgreen & Dragset (and the single image of the cityscape) define two primary entrances to the train hall.
Public Art Fund Director & Chief Curator Nicholas Baume said, “Reflecting on themes of past, present, and future, three extraordinary new site-specific works of art…which dazzle in their beauty, humanity, ambition, and technical mastery–capture the spirit of this remarkable new transit hub. Elmgreen & Dragset have dreamed into being an imaginary cityscape that descends from the ceiling and radiates the dynamism and energy of a contemporary megacity. Kehinde Wiley’s hand-painted, illuminated stained glass reinvents the classical ceiling fresco. His celestial scenes are filled with young, Black New Yorkers in poses borrowed from breakdance, picturing in this new civic space an exuberant form of expression that originated on the streets of our city. Captivating and powerful, each work is inspired by New York’s rich heritage, its diverse and talented people, and its irrepressible creativity.”
Amtrak owns Penn Station. Their trains will arrive and depart from the new train hall. According to Amtrak, here are a host of benefits for their passengers.
The Moynihan Train Hall will include a Metropolitan Lounge (formerly ClubAcela), a premium lounge space for Amtrak travelers. It will provide the following amenities:
Here are some photos of the new Metropolitan Lounge.
All images by GothamGuru except for the first one, which is courtesy of New York Public Library Digital Collection.