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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Three Out of Four Ain't Bad

At the Library Company
Mourning Broad Street Station
By Richard Carreño
[Writers Clearinghouse News Service]
The centrepiece to the current exhibit at the Library Company, 'Working on the Railroads,' is table-sized model of the former Victorian-era Broad Street Station, which, in the right light, could have doubled for St. Pancras in London.

'Former' because Philadelphia's Pennsy station, across the street from City Hall, was razed in the mid-1950s. That after a fire that left its platform shed in cinders, the construction of the 'Chinese Wall' to connect rails to the main north-south ones along the Schuylkill, and another fire that damaged the main structure. Still, it's a shame that this treasure is gone. But for Philadelphia, three out of four ain't bad. Meaning that we at least still have the Reading Terminal, Suburban Station, and 30th Street-Penn Station.

By Philly standards, that kind of preservation (no thanks to Ed Bacon) is some kind of record. Even New York lost the grandeur of its old Penn Station. And there's no telling if and when the old main Post Office across the street on 7th Avenue will be converted to a remodelled Penn Station annex to be known as the Patrick Moynihan Station. 

The Library Company exhibit doesn't editorialise. My lament above is mine alone, though I did share it with a young woman who was on a recent day also marvelling that the Broad Street Station model. She agreed. What the exhibit does aim to do is explore -- and it does this with great success and in loving detail -- is explore Frank Furness's nearly 200 commissions for the country's once great three railroads, the Philadelphia & Reading, the Baltimore & Ohio, and the Pennsylvania.

This is a must-see exhibit. And, in a way, timely, other than for memorialising the 100 years of Furness's death. A reconfiguration and rehab of the Septa stations underground at City Hall, part of the overall City Hall plaza reconstruction, is of course now under way. Since Paul Levy has a hand in this, the prognosis is good. Again, no thanks to Ed Bacon, whose mess we're still cleaning up.

The exhibit runs through 19 April and is open from 9 am to 4:45 pm Monday through Friday.