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Guide to the Alexander Hatos Photograph Collection
1948-1970 (Bulk 1964-1967)
 PR 48

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Rebecca Dean

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on December 13, 2011
Description is in English.

Biographical and Historical Note

Alexander Hatos (1901-1987), a native of Metuchen, NJ, worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad for 45 years. An amateur photographer, Hatos meticulously photographed the process of demolishing the original McKim, Mead, and White-designed Pennsylvania Station and building Madison Square Garden.

The McKim, Mead, and White-designed Pennsylvania Station, which opened in 1910, was a masterpiece of Beaux-Arts architecture. It was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad as a New York terminal for both their trains and for those of the Long Island Railroad. The building was inspired by ancient Roman architecture, especially the Baths of Caracalla. The exterior of the building was built of granite; much of the interior was made of Tavertine marble quarried in Italy.

By the 1950s, the cost of upkeep for the monumental building, its delapidated condition, and the possibility of generating more income from the site by putting in offices and a sports complex led to the Pennsylvania Railroad's decision to take down the original structure and replace it with Madison Square Garden and an office building called Pennsylvania Plaza. The new complex was owned jointly by the Pennsylvania Railroad and Madison Square Corporation. Demolition started in early 1964; Madison Square Garden opened in 1967. Pennsylvania Plaza was built last. The companies involved in the demolition and construction included Turner Construction Company, Tishman Realty and Construction Company, the Lipsett division of Luria Brothers, Charles Luckman Associates, Bethlehem Steel, and Gerosa Crane Company. An interesting aspect of this construction project is that Pennsylvania Station remained in use (by about 250,000 people and 640 trains per weekday) throughout the demolition and construction.

The demolition met some resistance before it started, mainly from members of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Mayor Robert F. Wagner established both a Committee for the Preservation of Historic and Aesthetic Structures and a Landmarks Preservation Commission prior to the start of demolition, but his actions came too late to prevent Pennsylvania Station's demolition. A group of architects picketed at the start of demolition, but there was little public protest. Public outrage at the fate of the original Pennsylvania Station grew during the demolition and ultimately led to the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965 as a way to save the city's other monuments from demolition. The Landmarks Preservation Commission is credited with saving numerous city landmarks - including Grand Central Station -- from destruction.

Chronology

  1. 1904 Excavation for the McKim, Mead, and White Pennsylvania Station begins.
  2. 1910 The McKim, Mead, and White Pennsylvania Station opens.
  3. 1961 Jun Mayor Robert F. Wagner sets up a Committee for the Preservation of Historic and Aesthetic Structures.
  4. 1962 Feb The Board of Estimate appropriates $50,000 to establish a Landmarks Commission.
  5. 1962 Apr Mayor Wagner appoints a twelve-member Landmarks Preservation Commission.
  6. 1963 Oct Demolition of the McKim, Mead, and White Pennsylvania Station commences.
  7. 1964 Oct The first of 207 steel grillage anchors for Madison Square Garden is installed.
  8. 1965 Apr The Landmarks Preservation Commission is signed into law.
  9. 1966 Jul The last statues are removed from the Seventh Avenue facade of Penn Station.
  10. 1966 Sept The first part of the new Pennsylvania Station opens to the public.
  11. 1967 Madison Square Garden is completed.
  12. 1970 Pennsylvania Plaza is completed.