Celebrating the Anniversary of a Moment That Galvanized Historic Preservation

It was 50 years ago tomorrow that many will argue the modern historic preservation movement was born in the United States. On that day, the Action Group for Better Architecture in New York gathered to protest the demolition of Pennsylvania Station.

David W. Dunlap tells the story of that historic protest, by a group of "more than 100 buttoned-down and white-gloved protesters," with the help of architects Peter Samton and Diana Goldstein, who were present that day.

"More than a year before the protesters assembled, it had been known that the developer Irving Mitchell Felt and the Pennsylvania Railroad had every intention of tearing Penn Station down to street level and replacing it with a new Madison Square Garden on Eighth Avenue, and an office tower and hotel tower on Seventh Avenue," writes Dunlap.

"Mr. Samton attributed some of the early inertia among opponents to sheer disbelief. 'It was impossible to think that this monumental building was going to be demolished to make way for something that would make more money for the landowners,' he said."

Though the protest won front-page coverage in The Times, Penn Station was demolished a year later. 

In the bigger picture, their advocacy was not for naught however. "I really believe Grand Central Terminal was saved because of what happened at Penn Station," Mr. Samton said.

Although Goldstein "still regards the demolition as a 'moral outrage,'" a larger goal was accomplished. "We knew we wouldn't win, but we did hope to change the climate," she reminisced.

Full Story: 50 Years Ago, Sharply Dressed Protesters Stood Up for a Train Station They Revered

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