Old Penn Station


A beautiful tribute to the glory of the original Pennsylvania Railroad Station


During the first half of the 20th century, the original Pennsylvania Station was one of New York City’s grandest landmarks, a palace in the middle of Manhattan. William Low’s glorious illustrations pay close attention to detail while still encompassing the large-scale grandeur of Penn Station. 


Old Penn Station follows a very specific piece of...

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A beautiful tribute to the glory of the original Pennsylvania Railroad Station


During the first half of the 20th century, the original Pennsylvania Station was one of New York City’s grandest landmarks, a palace in the middle of Manhattan. William Low’s glorious illustrations pay close attention to detail while still encompassing the large-scale grandeur of Penn Station. 


Old Penn Station follows a very specific piece of New York City history, but it’s not just a New York book.  The author’s research carefully addresses the whole history of the building, from construction to destruction, ending with an acknowledgment of its lasting legacy in terms of historical preservation. Spaces can be powerful, and Old Penn Station honors one particular powerful space which is sure to engender discussion about other historical buildings and monuments all across the nation.

This is a classic, beautiful book for history lovers, train lovers, and art lovers alike.


Old Penn Station is a 2007 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year and a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
When Manhattan's old Pennsylvania Station was slated for demolition in the early '60s, a New York Times editorial sadly noted, "We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed." As if to confirm that assessment, the city hurried to form a preservation commission after the destruction of the priceless McKim, Mead, and White landmark. This beautifully illustrated children's book present "Old Penn" in all her steel-lined, sun-drenched splendor. A glimpse into the past for those too young to remember.
Publishers Weekly

In an introductory note, Low (Chinatown) explains that when he selected New York's original Pennsylvania Station as the subject of his master's thesis, he embarked on a journey to bring the landmark "back to life." Here he does so gracefully, through direct yet lyrical prose and dark paintings that range from close-up images to expansive panoramas, and from grainy to sharply focused. Outlining the history of the station, Low notes that the then-powerful Pennsylvania Railroad Company was determined to drop its New York-bound passengers in Manhattan, rather than have them take a ferry to the island from New Jersey, and "wanted to do it with style." After a renowned architectural firm and famous sculptor were hired, a tunnel was built under the Hudson River and the palace-like structure was opened in 1910. Narrative and art usher readers into the station's bustling concourse (which "looked like a magical spider-web of metal and glass"), where they will appreciate how for travelers of the era the terminal "was a magical experience." That, of course, makes the depiction of the grand station's 1963 demolition all the sadder. Yet Low concludes on a heartening note, observing that public outrage at Penn Station's razing led to the founding of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has saved other historic buildings-including Grand Central Terminal-from a similar fate. Indeed, Low's effort soundly reinforces his concluding message that buildings are "not just concrete and steel. They are the heart and soul of all great cities." Ages 5-9. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
Low celebrates one of New York City's architectural landmarks even as he mourns its destruction. He details the work required to build not only the "palace" of the station but also the tunnel to reach it. Pennsylvania Station, completed in 1910, was an elegant destination for thousands. But after World War II, most Americans stopped riding trains to travel by auto. The Pennsylvania Railroad Company, losing money, decided to move the station business underground and build a stadium and office building above it. So the beautiful station had to be destroyed, torn down, with little of the sculptural decoration saved. The only good result of this shocking loss has been the formation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which fortunately has saved the other outstanding station, Grand Central, along with other historic buildings, from destruction. Using naturalistic textured oil and computer-generated paintings, Low depicts on the jacket/cover the station glowing with oranges and reds under the night sky's deep blue. The front endpapers show a close-up of construction workers erecting the steel structure; the back shows the hard hats with air hammers taking it apart. Double-page scenes use points of view to full advantage, showing the growth and busy bustle of the station. A group portrait of a dozen artisans in front of some stone statues adds a human dimension to the visual story. There is a bibliography. "A Guide to the Art of Old Penn Station" is a useful supplement available from the publisher.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805079258
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 4/3/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 581,890
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: NC940L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.59 (w) x 12.25 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

William Low was born and raised in New York City. He is a lover of trains and New York architecture. Mr. Low is the author and illustrator of Chinatown and a four-time Silver Medal winner at the Society of Illustrators. Currently, he teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

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