Conquering Gotham: A Gilded Age Epic: The Construction of Penn Station and Its Tunnels

Jill Jonnes, Author . Viking $27.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-670-03158-0

Modern Manhattan is a miracle in many ways, but all of its imports, commuters included, must traverse at least one river to get there. In 1900, the New York Central, owned by the Vanderbilts, already gave Manhattan a northern connection over the narrow Harlem River. A southern connection over the mile-wide Hudson would be a whole different story. Alexander Cassatt, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was the visionary on the project. But how to do it? A bridge plan fell through due to expense; a tunnel would lack the oxygen needed for steam engines. The breakthrough lay in the cutting-edge electrified locomotives developed in Paris. Historian Jonnes (Empires of Light ), demonstrating impressive immersion in the Gilded Age, ably spins the tale, which bears some similarities to The Devil in the White City . This is a vivid story of hardball Tammany Hall maneuvering and mind-boggling engineering. Once construction began, the two-track narrative settles on the daunting construction of the tunnels and Charles McKim's much-admired design of the terminus at Pennsylvania Station, prized by New Yorkers only after its ill-considered demise in 1963. Jonnes can claim an important addition to the popular literature of how New York became the archetype of a great American metropolis. (Apr. 23)

Reviewed on: 02/19/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-101-21889-1
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