The architects Peter Samton and Diana Goldstein can tell you exactly where they were a half century ago, at 5 p.m. on Aug. 2, 1962: out on Seventh Avenue, tilting at windmills.
Pennsylvania Station, the McKim, Mead & White masterpiece, was doomed. They knew it. But they weren’t going to let it go down undefended. With Norval White, Jordan Gruzen, Elliott Willensky and others, they assembled an impromptu resistance brigade known as Agbany, for Action Group for Better Architecture in New York.
On that 86-degree summer evening 50 years ago, commuters were greeted by the sight of more than 100 buttoned-down and white-gloved protesters marching around the colossal colonnade at the station’s entrance.
“Save Penn Station,” their signs said, in nicely formed letters. (Architects. Of course.) “Don’t Sell Our City Short.” “Save Our Heritage.” “Action Not Apathy.”
Philip Johnson was impeccably present, in the company of the peerless Elizabeth Bliss Parkinson, a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, who would soon be its president. There was Aline B. Saarinen, the widow of Eero Saarinen, who had been until 1959 an associate art critic at The New York Times. Agbany counted Eleanor Roosevelt, Stewart Alsop, Jane Jacobs and Norman Mailer among its supporters, along with many of the most respected names in architecture and architectural criticism …
For the full article by David Dunlap, click here.
The firm of McKim, Mead & White is also responsible for another monumental New York edifice: the IRT Powerhouse. But like Penn Station before, the building’s lack of protection as an Individual Landmark means it is constantly at risk of inappropriate modifications and, worse still, demolition. Learn more at the Save the Powerhouse blog.