A Niche Without a Statue

Rea Placed in the Niche via Photoshop
Rea Placed in the Niche via Photoshop
I have often thought the large bronze of once Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) President Samuel Rea looked lost behind a concrete pillar at Two Penn Plaza in New York. It’s bad enough being a former president of a company that doesn’t exist anymore and having an elaborate bronze made for a monumental building that was, in a myopic moment, demolished.
Bronze of Samuel Rea at Two Penn Plaza
Bronze of Samuel Rea at Two Penn Plaza

Having an elaborate bronze stand day after day behind a bland concrete pillar of the uninspiring building that replaced Penn Station seems too much to bare.

There may be a solution. The other day I noticed that two statuary niches in the Farley Post Office were empty. It also seems that the bronze of Samuel Rea would fit nicely one of them. Rea once stood in a similar niche inside Penn Station, as did a bronze of Alexander Cassatt, another president of the PRR and brother of painter Mary Cassatt. The bronze of Cassatt is now in the PRR museum in Pennsylvania, but surely it could be replicated.

How grand it would be for Cassatt and Rea to stand in the niches in front of the Farley Post Office. It would be a welcome interim step in making up for the loss of Penn Station by creating a new space for rail passenger travel in the old post office.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage. When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city. With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s. The result will be a book with a video component. We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

3 comments

Your idea is right on track, so to speak! Placing Rea and Cassatt in those niches of the Farley would be fitting considering their history. Rea deserves such a place, and 2 Penn Plaza doesn’t cut it.

Considering he was very instrumental in bringing the Pennsylvania RR to Manhattan, Rea deserves far better!

I would suggest communicating with the people behind the transformation of this building into Moynihan Station to make such a suggestion!

Well that sounds just find as long as they erect a Bronze Statute of Postmaster General James A. Farley as well, the landmark Post Office is his monument, regardless of what is constructed within it. I find all this trading of the history of the Postal Service for that of Penn Station to be very un- American. Once Moynihan’s station is constructed the Farley Post Office is still the landmark, the Moynihan Station is the adaptive reuse.

Clear seperations between the historic use and the adaptive reuse are required under Federal Law. “Transforming” the Farley Post office into the Moynihan Station does not provide for these clear separations . That is why as stated on the sign in front of the Farley building Moynihan Station is being “housed” in the historic Farley Post Office.
The Farley Post Office is the home of Moynihan Station, the Farley Post office being the landmark, and Moynihan Station being the adaptive reuse Amtrak Station to be housed in the landmark. Anything else would be in violation of city, state, and federal landmark laws like NHPA of 1966.

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