In one of the most “meta” film openings to ever grace the silver screen — written and directed as only New York City’s greatest auteur, Woody Allen, could — Isaac, a comedy writer (played by Allen) struggles to pen the first few lines of his next masterpiece. Set to the nostalgic swells of “Rhapsody in Blue,” we hear his musings over a stunning black-and-white montage of 1970s New York. The writer written by a writer and played by a writer ponders the perfect introduction: “To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.” The Jazz Age is, of course, long gone, as is Allen’s Manhattan, but their spirit lives on in the tangled, complex web that is the electric essence of the greatest city on Earth.
Join us as we take a trip down memory lane to recall what those earlier (better?) days looked like. From a building symbolically battling for greatness on Newspaper Row to the first (and second) incarnation of Madison Square Garden, click through to check out The Big Apple’s beautiful, lost buildings. Dear readers, what do you think? Should we have preserved these beauties, or is progress inevitable? Is the city today the most magnificent it’s ever been?
Pennsylvania Station by McKim, Mead and White – Manhattan
The controversial demolition of the grand pink granite station some 50 years after its opening was the catalyst for the enactment of the city’s first architectural preservation statutes. Inspired by the Roman Baths of Caracella, its enormous main waiting room approximated the scale of St. Peter’s nave in Rome. It was the largest indoor space in New York City and — covering more than seven acres — one of the largest public spaces in the world.
Vincent Scully, Sterling Professor Emeritus of the History of Art and Architecture at Yale University (and one of the most influential architecture teachers ever according to Pritzker Prize winner Philip Johnson!), summed up the resentment by saying, “through it one entered the city like a god. One now scuttles in like a rat.”