original penn station

Penn Station Trivia: 20 Interesting Facts You May Not Know

Tim Welsh Exploring New York Leave a Comment

Pennsylvania Station, or Penn Station, is a travel mecca that sees hundreds of thousands of people pass through its doors each day.

This hub is key to getting to some of New York’s best-known landmarks from other parts of the city. But, there’s more to the station than meets the eye.

We’ve gathered 20 Penn Station facts, tidbits, and trivia to help you uncover its interesting past and present.

20 Little-Known Penn Station Facts and Trivia

Ready for some Penn Station trivia? Let’s start with one of the most important facts:

1. Penn Station is one of the busiest railway stations in the world.

It serves about 650,000 travelers and commuters every single day. The only station in NYC that’s busier? Grand Central Terminal.

2. The original Penn Station opened in 1910.

The building was an architectural marvel. It included a soaring coffered ceiling and incredible iron and glass arches. The design inspiration came from the ancient Roman Baths of Caracalla as well as European train stations.

3. The Original Penn Station was mostly demolished in 1963 and replaced with the current incarnation.

Before it was demolished, developers attempted to modernize the station. They added a mid-century ticket booth, fluorescent lighting, and modern advertisements, which clashed with the grandeur of the original structure.

4. The original building covered 8 acres underneath Manhattan.

Today, the station has 11 platforms and 22 tracks.

5. You can discover pieces of the Original Penn Station on a guided tour.

Tours are offered by Peek and OnBoard Sightseeing Tours. Remnants of the classic, grand architecture of the original are supposedly hidden in plain sight.

6. The current station was built in 1964.

The new Penn Station and Madison Square Garden were constructed at the same time.

7. An abandoned passageway underground connected to Penn Station is called “Gimbels Passageway”.

The passageway was closed in the 1990s due to safety concerns.

8. Penn Station serves Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, and Long Island Rail Road customers.

Generally, the station serves more people per day than all the New York City airports combined.

9. Lost in Penn Station? Look at the floor.

Each transportation company that serves Penn Station travelers has a different floor type associated with their part of the station. Here’s a cheat-sheet:

  • Amtrak – Huge tile blocks with silver joints
  • Long Island Railroad – Tile that looks like granite
  • New Jersey Transit – Marble

10. The original station was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

The company was chartered in 1846 but is no longer in existence.

11. The original structure was a prime example of Beaux-Arts architecture.

Beaux-Arts was a popular design style in the United States from the late-1800s to the mid-1920s.

12. The design firm that led the original project was McKim, Mead, & White.

This company was responsible for many other famous buildings still standing in greater New York State and New England: Boston Public Library, the White House’s redesigned West and East Wings, Columbia University’s main campus, and the Brooklyn Museum are a few examples.

13. Penn Station was originally built as part of Pennsylvania Railroad’s plan to extend service across the Hudson River.

They chose to tunnel underneath the river rather than build a bridge over it.

14. During its first 10 years of operation, two-thirds of the station’s travelers were commuters.

The station connected the city proper to the suburbs.

15. The demolition of the original structure helped spur the Landmarks Preservation Act.

This act is what saved Grand Central Terminal from demolition during the same decade the original Penn Station was torn down.

16. The original station’s original coal-fired power plant is still standing.

One of the biggest remnants leftover from the original station is the power plant across the street. It used to power the whole station, but now it’s in disrepair.

17. Penn Station’s current incarnation sits directly below Madison Square Garden, Two Penn Plaza, and 33rd Street.

A useful Penn Station fact: Its location is ideal if you’re traveling to Madison Square to catch a game or a concert.

18. Penn Station is the major hub for nearby attractions like the Empire State Building, Koreatown, Madison Square Garden, and more.

Get off at Penn Station, and you’ll be a stone’s throw from iconic New York City scenes.

19. Once upon a time, the neighborhood the station now occupies was a seedy area called “the Tenderloin.”

Recently, this bit of history (and the Tenderloin’s crime-soaked past) garnered the spotlight thanks to a period drama on TNT called The Alienist.

20. Changes are coming to Penn Station.

Additions and remodeling plans are on the docket for the transportation hub. These may include new entrances and a new pedestrian plaza.

Learn More Penn Station Trivia

Penn Station is a fascinating place full of history. With this Penn Station trivia in hand, you’ll never cross its doors again without seeing it in a new light.

Know what else is close to Penn Station? The historic Pennsylvania Hotel – it’s right across the street. Stay with us and get prime access to one of the major hubs in NYC.

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