We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Sunday, February 5. 2012
There was a fervor for tearing down old buildings in urban American during the 1960s and early 70s. Many historic, but dilapidated, downtowns were bulldozed, as were countless wonderful "Union Stations" - and anything else that seemed "old".
Today, we cherish towns like Savannah which were left untouched by the government scourge of "urban renewal."
19th century housing was replaced by "modern" Soviet-style planned and government-subsidized housing projects (which finally are beginning to be dynamited themselves, for good reason). And the buildings were replaced with parking lots and sterile semi-high rises, and malls - that horrible concept which turns its back on the town in an effort to create an unreal, soul-less consumer paradise for the masses.
When you drive through downtown Bridgeport, CT, Hartford, or Nashville, you will be hard put to find an old building. Lucky towns escaped this frenzy of "modernization," which I term "dehumanization." Nobody wants to be in those sorts of downtowns.
Pennsylvania Station on the West Side of Manhattan - one of the masterpieces of the beaux-art movement -did not escape the epidemic of destruction. Grand Central Station escaped - but only barely. Just tell me - where would you rather wait 40 minutes for a train to meet your girlfriend or boyfriend - the new Penn Station, or Grand Central?
Photo below of the 1910 McKim, Mead and White Penn Station, from this site of NYC architectural images. Who would have the nerve to knock this thing down and replace it with the new (and truly terrible in every way) Madison Square Garden?
Truth be told, this whole commentary was just an excuse to post this photo:
More photos of Penn Station here.
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Robert Moses and his ilk have a lot to answer for...Might be interesting to trace who got rich from all the "urban renewal" projects and what they did with it...when it wasn't simply an exercise in monumental egoism.
The influence of architecture and planning upon human activities and morale is fascinating...
Boston escaped this awful fate because the now-maligned WASP elites and academics united with community groups and all sorts and conditions of people to preserve historical buildings and neighborhoods. And kept crooked developers and bulldozers better at bay than NY types were able to.
I don't want to rain on your parade, but people still weep over the wholesale destruction of the West End of Boston among lots of other things.
The ugliest building in the United States, most antithetical to its stated purpose, the people it serves, its surroundings, and all humanity now that I think of it, is the Boston City Hall.
By redlining entire swathes of neighborhoods in Boston, the crookedest politicians in the world destroyed Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan... thinking the debris was good enough for the blacks they'd pander to and farm for patronage but never treat as equals.
They tried to wreck it even more, but were indolent as well as venal, so a few things were neglected enough to be worth saving eventually.
Anything they payed attention to, they destroyed utterly.
Most famous for crooked pols: Boston, entire state of NJ, entire state of Nevada. Add your own favorites.
What a repast of the past. Do we enjoy or cry in our coffee this morning? Will take awhile to digest the links and photos, but one Buddy Larsen was absolutely on mark about a Deco period bus terminal being demolished in the 70s- the Greyhound building on W 34th, NYC (bottom of the first link, I think.)
Thanks for the terrific post, Barrister.
RE:Do we enjoy or cry in our coffee this morning?
We might as well enjoy. I recall a theater that was to be torn down in '72. They started auctioning off the inside and the chandelier sold for $1000. It was Tiffany and darn close to priceless. They eventually saved the theater but it is missing the Tiffany chandelier.
I watched Forty-Second Street a few weeks back and this song is now stuck in my head.
Shuffle Off To Buffalo
Written for: Forty-Second Street (1933)
Performer: Ruby Keeler, Clarence Nordstrom, Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel & Studio Chorus
Lyric: Al Dubin
Music: Harry Warren
I'll go home and get my panties,
You go home and get your scanties,
And away we'll go;
Mm, off we're gonna shuffle,
Shuffle off to Buffalo.
To Niag'ra in a sleeper,
There's no honeymoon that's cheaper,
And the train goes slow;
Ooh, off we're gonna shuffle,
Shuffle off to Buffalo.
Someday, the stork may pay a visit
And leave a little souvenir;
Just a little cute "what-is-it?"
But we'll discuss that later, dear.
For a little silver quarter,
We can have the Pullman porter
Turn the lights down low;
Ooh, off we're gonna shuffle,
Shuffle off to Buffalo.
"Shuffle off to Buffalo"--har--the animal spirits were real high back then, weren't they. Americans throwing up skyscrapers overnight. The days before the federal government threw its wet blanket over the people. Well, we can thank Hitler for the current statist morass--a hate ideology hurts everything, in widening ripples, far into the future--maybe forever. Got to kill those bad babies in the crib. Can we go back to 1975 and get a do-over?
Oops, not calling us hitlerites, no no no, just remarking on WWII, how the maximum effort it required made Big Gov so popular that the emergency anti-depression centralism, once past the emergency, never quite got undone.
You're being hazed / paged at the BC over L3s subversive attempts at informed voting.
WRT your point; as ever, you're spot on.
Ike established the SBA in a vain attempt at getting America back to its small business roots.
The opposing party has so perverted the SBA that Ike must be spinning in his grave like a lathe.
BTW, it was the jet that did in Penn Station. Nothing else.
And New York does not have crooked politicians? Isn't it rather notorious also for slum landlords who torched their own properties in the 60s and 70s, and crooked developers who operate on a scale that shames Boston . I think New York wins the urban sleaze award easily. But R de H's points are well taken. It was seeing scummy politicians there that gave me my lifelong distaste for the beast. In particular, the vile hypocrisy of limousine liberals whose own children attended private schools but who trumpeted the necessity for the kids of the home-owning working (oops--middle class, Americans won't admit to being anything else!) class to be bussed to inner city schools...It is interesting now that many conservatives now trumpet the merits of charter schools for the poor but would never let their own children go to one. Same hypocrisy.
The museums, theaters and galleries, the young artists, writers and dancers are the best things in New York. I know that you, BD, are fond of the robber barons (then and now) because of their patronage of the arts and the professions, so you probably make pilgrimages to the temples of Mammon there. The vaunted stores? For myself, I haven't bought a thing in the city except Chinatown for years, and wouldn't. Vain dumb show is what the city does best. That and degeneracy.
Oh, and Boston is no longer distinctive. Wouldn't live there any more. Multiculturalism and "progress" ruined it.
I lived most of my life in cities and hate them now. For me, the ideal is to live in the country and make several week long forays a year to the city for doses of culture, good lectures, and to catch up with old friends. But I don't like being around so many people all the time. It is exhilarating in small doses, and good for young people starting out their careers, but on a day to day basis now I prefer looking out on trees and wild turkey and moose and mountains to being part of a horde of bustling people dressed in blacks, greys and brown.
No snide remarks, please. I prefer my books and my animals and a buffer of 200 acres between me and my neighbors. Just a social misfit, and too old to change.
NO JOKE HERE;
Over the The Belmont Club
Under the title "The Truce is Over" Wretchard references Sen Joe Leibermans website and comments and then goes on to dilate the topic with his own insight. It is an EXCELLENT piece of analysys and easily worthy of your time. I encourage a peek and read when time permits you to do so.
I have been in this philosophical state now since the Vietnam War. The Left in this country is an enemy of the Constitution but use it to subvert it.
A wonderful insight into what we did to some truly timeless archetecture. It always breaks my heart. I believe we had artists at work not just builders.
I have included a shot of a section of my Montana property with a piece that's just finished restoration.
Hey, Habu! That's my house.
I'd take it, if it comes with 10,000 acres of wilderness.
Suits me. Nice and small, so minimal housekeeping and more time outdoors.
Not to be too contrary but I am like that hyperactive guy on Extreme Home Makeover in that I actually like a good demolition. Neighborhoods can change, streets can move, buildings do wear out, especially commercial ones that are well used. I am not talking about Penn Station, as that building obviously was not worn out, but I suppose its usefulness as a train station was gone. It and many others should have been saved but I have worked on some so called heritage buildings that really were rotten to the core.
As for big city developers, IMO the proper term is redevelopers and NY has been redeveloped several times. Otherwise the whole place would look like Habus'. /s
Visually speaking, I like the bridges best.
The people who make the city pulse and run are important people. The police, the engineers, the truck drivers and the construction workers, etc. I would like to tour the tunnels or the historic firehalls, but that's because I would be in the company of the engineers and the fire fighters. Besides the architects, the artists and authors etc. usually are the ones who put the beautiful finish on a city, the top coat. But the bodies of all those buildings were built by construction workers and trades people.
my heart dies when I see that a place of wonder like penn station was demolished. In Belgium in the 70 they wanted to do the same with Antwerp central station but the building is now protected and for my humble opinion the most beautifull train station in the world
One of my first jobs in Israel was helping to design the new City Hall complex in Jerusalem.
And it became clear that the embarrassment of architectural riches had basically choked the city's development.
When real cities are frozen, when they become good only for tourists but not for locals - they get that creepy-zombie Disney feeling.
This has happened to some of the oldest areas of Jerusalem. Tourists and international buyers driving up the "picturesque" real estate - and driving out locals and their "local color".
There's no really good solution.
I have fond memories of Penn Station in the 1940s. When I was in college in New York [Columbia] I had a very imaginative beau who had far more creativity than money. One night he took me down to Penn Station, and we made a circuit of all the train gates, kissing each other a passionate goodbye at each gate. It was the most unique date, and the most unique beau I've ever had, and I still remember him fondly. He proved to me once and for all, that you don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun.
Penn station: beautiful picture of a wonderful building. Someday children are going to ask, "Did people really build these buildings?" And the answer will be, "No dear, the State did. People couldn't build anything this wonderful."
For those readers who may be hoping that this disease hasn't spread entirely across the country, I can only refer you to the "new and improved" Golden Gate Park. Words cannot express what our comrades in San Francisco have done but imagination might. Think of what James Taggart, Lillian Readen, Cuffy Meigs and Oren Boyle might design after a night of way too much booze and some bad Guacamole. That's what happened to the Aquarium and the DeYoung Museum. Tragic beyond tears.
That photo would be much more poignant, were there a single human being in it, or thousands, even.
Art, depending, is easy to bulldoze as tastes change.
I may be the only person who feels this way, but:
As a child, I would go to both Penn Station and Grand Central to visit my relatives who lived in the suburbs (I was a city kid).
Penn Station was unpleasant. It was full of smoke and rushing people, and the ceilings were so high that it felt spooky. It was also very noisy, all those rushing people echoing around the cavernous space. I found it a scary, intimidating place.
Grand Central, on the other hand, was built to a human scale, as well as being beautiful. I always loved it.
I think people are way too sentimental about Penn Station. It wasn't nice to be in (though the photos are lovely).
I have never seen an urban structure as beautiful as a pine tree on a mountainside.
Never—and if I do, I'll mourn my loss and know it's time to go.