Nostalgic without being sentimental, William Low‘s straightforward text and striking paintings pay tribute to a long-gone Manhattan landmark, boldly conceived a century ago and unceremoniously torn down 53 years after it opened. Before the mid-1960s construction of the functional transit hub that Low passes through each week stood what he presents as a work of art, “a magical spiderweb of metal and glass,” and the reader first becoming aware of old Penn Station through this book is in for a rich experience.
It’s easy to imagine an author-illustrator framing the building’s story through the eyes of a retirement-age commuter, looking back on the freshly built Penn Station of his boyhood as its nondescript successor takes its place. But Low refreshingly keeps the focus on the building itself, the reasons for its construction and demolition alike, the life that coursed through it in the meantime, and the lessons learned from the way this “monument to rail travel” was discarded in pieces into New Jersey’s Meadowlands. Low’s book serves as a monument to that monument, and neither will be easily forgotten.