Fascinating Vintage Photos of Beautiful Buildings Being Demolished

Richard Nickel, a heroic architectural photographer and historian lost his life recording Chicago’s grand design legacy before it succumbed to the devastating destruction of private developers making way for — in their eyes — progress and a new way of life. As he famously said, “great architecture has only two natural enemies: water and stupid men.”

What we destroy often says more about our society than what we create, and in the middle of the last century, after the end of WWII, we were a nation desperately needing to move on. These days what’s old is new again and thanks to a decidedly different approach to urban renewal, we now cherish all things salvaged, reclaimed and re-purposed. From New York City’s original Penn Station to Louis Sullivan’s landmark theater in Chicago that was tragically replaced by a parking structure, click through to remember some of our nation’s great lost buildings.

Pennsylvania Station – New York, New York

Image via New York Architecture; Landmarks45

On July 14, 1966, under the headline, “A Vision of Rome Dies: Shorn of Its Proud Eagles, Last Facade of Penn Station Yielding to Modernity,” the great Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable wrote the following “obituary” in The New York Times: “Pennsylvania Station succumbed to progress this week at the age of 56, after a lingering decline. The building’s one remaining facade was shorn of eagles and ornament yesterday, preparatory to leveling the last wall. It went not with a bang, or a whimper, but to the rustle of real estate stock shares. The passing of Penn Station is more than the end of a landmark. It makes the priority of real estate values over preservation conclusively clear. It confirms the demise of an age of opulent elegance, of conspicuous, magnificent spaces, rich and enduring materials, the monumental civic gesture, and extravagant expenditure for esthetic ends.”