In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Blogging Note
  2. Over-Theorized Design
  3. The Role of the Art Museum is ...?
  4. Night Club Echo
  5. Boilerplate Adventures
  6. New Planes, Alternative Lives
  7. Cruisin' Large
  8. Sporting Sports Figures' Names
  9. Jets: Freedom of Placement
  10. Zdeno on Materialism and Free Will

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« "New Right" Rumblings | Main | Time Management and Dating »

December 06, 2009

Vanished Buildings Seen

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

There are a few benefits of getting older, but not all that many. One can be a pretty good degree of savoir-faire in the literal sense of knowing how to function in the world; it's the obverse of being a teenager.

Another is the bragging rights (such as they are) of saying that one has seen certain sights that are impossible for younger folk to view. I was having coffee yesterday with a 2Blowhards commenter and we yakked about Japan. Afterward, it popped into my head that I should have mentioned having seen a certain building during my hikes around Tokyo many years ago.

Expanding on that, herewith are three important buildings I've viewed that haven't existed for more than 40 years.


Pennsylvania Station - New York - waiting room
A Pennsylvania Station remains, but it's what was left after the above-ground part of the original building was scraped off. I was there in the early 1960s when it was a lot dingier than the early photo above indicates. As a result, at the time I didn't appreciate it as much as I suppose I should have. That's how things go sometimes.

Singer Building - New York
Little known today, the Singer Building was, briefly, the tallest building in the world. It had an odd, bulged top that was distinctive, if not exactly distinguished. Again, I saw it during its final years and it simply struck me as being old and funny looking. Now I wonder how it might look had it been preserved and restored to a bright, shiny state.

Imperial Hotel - Tokyo - by Frank Lloyd Wright
This famous Wright building definitely attracted my attention and I tried to walk through it whenever I was in its neighborhood -- across the street from MacArthur's former Dai-Ichi headquarters and across the moat from the Imperial Palace where Hirohito hung his hat. I felt its loss far more than the other two.

Even in this age of historical preservation, some architecturally important buildings don't survive. Readers are welcome to chime in about missing ones that they've witnessed.



posted by Donald at December 6, 2009


The old terminal station in Atlanta:

You would weep if you saw the crap they built in its place back in the sixties.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on December 7, 2009 1:08 AM

My last visit to NYC was so long ago that I'd never seen the Twin Towers anyway.

But to your point - parts of Georgian Edinburgh were knocked down after I saw them. Happily, lots still remain.

Posted by: dearieme on December 7, 2009 8:54 AM

The loss of Penn Station was a crime. THe replacement Penn Station is hideously ugly, basically an underground subway terminal.

Posted by: MQ on December 7, 2009 11:39 AM

Two landmarks from the movie Pulp Fiction:

1) The diner that "Punkin & Hunnybunny" tried to rob; it was razed shortly after the movie was filmed. If I recall correctly, it was, or was soon to be, out of business at the time of filming.

2) The motel in which Bruce Willis's character stayed with his "blueberry pancakes" girlfriend no longer exists.

Posted by: PA on December 7, 2009 11:42 AM

Union Station in Chicago was grand and filled with a sort of majesty long gone. A Union Station remains, but its top was knocked off and it is a subterranean warren. Something very important about Chicago died when Union Station did.

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on December 7, 2009 7:37 PM

I saw both Pennsylvania Station and the Singer Building. (Although I'd been to Pennsylvania Station as a child, I made a special trip to both it and the Singer Building to "experience" them before their predicted demise.)

1) I think Pennsylvania Station could very well be the most overrated building of the first half of the 20th Century. While there are a number of reasons I feel this way (which I don't have time to get into at the moment), I think the station's "Waiting Room" (the room pictured in the post) provides a good example. The room may make a very impressive photograph, but it was not only not very functional (seating had to be added to supplement the smaller real waiting rooms that were elsewhere) it was also, so it seemed to me, much, much too high and too narrow a room, and thus it was a very unpleasant -- even uncomfortable -- space to be in.

Despite it's many faults, though, I will agree that its demolition was a great architectural loss. The building just wasn't in the same league, in my opinion, as Grand Central Terminal (which was saved).

2) Singer Building. It was indeed a funny building. My recollection is that I always liked the exterior, although it was kind of strange. Among architectural writers, a lot of fuss was made about the Singer Building's lobby. While I did like the lobby, I couldn't quite understand all the fuss that was made about it, though. Perhaps I would have been more impressed if I had just discovered it on my own.

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on December 7, 2009 8:31 PM

Richard S Wheeler: I pass through Union Station fairly often. The concourse was demolished in 1969, but the Great Hall is still there. That's the main above ground structure.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on December 7, 2009 9:05 PM

The lobby section of the imperial hotel is preserved at Meiji Mura:

Posted by: steve on December 13, 2009 8:01 AM

Chicago had other rail terminals that have disappeared: Northwestern Station, which was designed by the same firm as Pennsylvania Station and was similiar but on a smaller scale, Illinois Central terminal and Grand Central terminal (Chicago had one too) were both demolished for no apparent reason since even though ridership was way down on rail by the 70's, both were still used as commuter terminals. There is a good book, Lost Chicago by David Lowe, that has many important buildings that have been lost to the wrecking ball.

Posted by: Robert on December 19, 2009 10:39 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?