These walls witnessed many hellos and goodbyes, many arrivals and departures, many iterations of train designs and quite a few dramatic twists and turns in evolution of rail-based travel in America.
Pennsylvania Railroad Station, also known among Pittsburghers as The Pennsylvanian, Union Station and more frequently as Penn Station, was conceived as a train station by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham. Construction started in 1898 and was completed five years later.
The station at 10th Street and Liberty Avenue began its operation on October 12, 1901.
As America’s railroad industry shrunk so did the number of carriages and passengers in the glamorous waiting hall beneath Penn Station’s rotunda. Although the building still hosts an active Amtrak station, the rail services occupy only a small portion of the Liberty Avenue site.
Nowadays, it’s more of a pantheon — a monument, if you will — to the glamorous promises and glorious days of railroads in America.
Today Amtrak offers only two trains departing from Pittsburgh, The Capitol Ltd. and the Pennsylvanian. According to reviews posted on Yelp, the train station itself “could use a facelift.” Last renovation dates to 1988. Annual ridership of Pittsburgh’s Penn Station is estimated at 135,137 (2013).
The extravagant building with the famous rotunda in Downtown Pittsburgh was never meant to become a place for weddings or a luxury apartment complex. But, hey, it could have been more unusual — in the 1970s, the Council of Allegheny County proposed the building to be the site of the then-planned David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Yep.