I never got to see Penn Station, but today I was able to see part of it; and with that I’m beginning to put the remaining peices together. I had probably seen it before, but not knowing what it was, I didn’t pay attention.
The building, the fourth largest in earth when it was built, was dismantled and discarded barely surviving fifty years. The desire to recreate Rome, which meant not putting an office tower above it, made it all the easier to tear it down. There’s enough written about that, however.
A large clock on the station had a figure of night on the right, and day on the left. This weekend I discovered that night was now a block from my apartment in the Brooklyn Museum Sculpture Garden. The figures were done by A.A. Weinmann, a New York sculptor. I’m not sure if day still exists, my guess is it’s part of a landfill, as night was recovered from such a fate.
Other figures from the station survive too, including a statue of Samuel Rae, now at Penn Plaza, and Alexander Cassatt, which now stands far from Midtown, in the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Several eagle forms also survive.
This past weekend also allowed a close-up look at the figure of Cornelius Vanderbilt in front of Grand Central, thanks to a summer program that removes cars temporarily from Park Avenue. This statue is actually older than the station. Albert De Groot, one of Vanderbilt’s steamship captains, made the general designs which were then crafted by artist Ernst Plassman.
One note on Cassatt, the brother of the impressionist painter Mary Cassatt, had his portrait painted by both his sister and John Singer Sargent. His townhouse in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square was apparently decorated with antiques and modern paintings.