When Retro Roadmum decided to take the train down to visit us this past weekend I was doubly excited. First because this was her inaugural visit to us since we moved to Pennsylvania, and second because I’d have an excuse to share the beauty of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station with all of you Retro Roadmap Readers!
While I knew how grand the building was on the outside from driving past it on Route 76 many a time, I hadn’t been inside the station since I took the train down to Philly when Retro Roadhusband and I were “courtin’.” I was overjoyed to see the art deco styled interior was just as grand as I remembered it when we dropped me mum off to head home this morning:
If you’ve ever seen the movies Trading Places, Witness, or Unbreakable this interior might look familiar to you)
Now a little historical background to set you off properly, courtesy of a cool website which is new to me, and definitely added to my bookmarks, Great American Stations:
The station was built between 1929-1933 and in 2010 was the 3rd busiest Amtrak station in the system. It has been on the national Register of Historic Places since 1978.
The interior of the station is notable and unique for both its stylistic and functional elements. The main concourse measures 290 by 135 feet with a 95-foot-high coffered ceiling and beautiful art-deco chandeliers. It is lined by gilded and ornamented columns that contrast with the more austere, classical look of the façade as well as by five-story-high cathedral-like windows. The floor, made of Tennessee marble, completes the sense of opulence of this impressive room.
And impressive it is! Even with the modern signage from the food court, you can easily recapture the feeling of what travel must have been like during the golden age of the railroads in this grand space, and a 3 year restoration project back in the late 1980s has brought gleam back to the gold and marble.
We had put enough quarters in the parking meter so we could get mum settled for her train and also explore some of the more interesting features of this travel hub.
In the main auditorium a striking statue looms above the 29th Street entrance.
Known as the Angel of the Resurrection (sculpted by Walker Hancock in 1950), it is a memorial to the 1307 Pennsylvania Railroad workers who lost their lives in World War II.
I loved the designation of Eastern Standard Time on the vintage clocks located near the ticket booths:
And my favorite space was the cavernous auditorium just past there. On one end you can escape the hustle and bustle of the main entrance:
While on the other end gaze at The Spirit of Transportation – a frieze created in 1895 by Karl Bitter. and originally decorated the Broad Street Station (which 30th Street Station was built to replace.)
When originally built the station had some unusual amenities such as a mortuary,chapel, hospital and roof that could withstand an airplane landing on it! Those alas have been replaced by the food court and retail space, but you can’t escape the sense of grandeur that this historic building exudes.
As an aside, as we walked around exploring the station with mum, New York’s Grand Central Station came up in conversation. Without missing a beat, she then recited from memory the introduction an old radio show she listened to when she was a kid, that to me perfectly captures that feeling of golden age rail travel:
As a bullet seeks its target,
shining rails in every part of our great country are aimed at Grand Central Station,
heart of the nation’s greatest city
Drawn by the magnetic force of the fantastic metropolis,
day and night, great trains rush toward the Hudson River,
sweep down its eastern bank for one hundred and forty miles,
flash briefly by the long red row of tenement houses south of 125th street,
dive with a roar into the two and a half mile tunnel which burrows beneath
the glitter and swank of Park Avenue, and then. . .
Grand Central Station!
Crossroads of a million private lives, gigantic stage on which are played a thousand dramas daily.
So while that was about New York’s Grand Dame of a Station, do yourself a favor and next time you want to visit Philadelphia, take the train and experience some of that wonder for yourself in our own 30th Street Station.
30th Street Station
93 N. 30th St. & Market St.
Philadelphia PA 19104
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