Station has seen millions come and go A JOURNEY INTO CITY'S HISTORY

December 17, 1993|By Algerina Perna

Since it opened in 1873, Baltimore's Penn Station has weathered many changes.

Formally known as the Pennsylvania Train Station, it has become a fixture in the city, much like the Baltimore Museum of Art or the Belvedere. This grand structure between Charles and St. Paul Streets has been an intimate witness to the city's history, a silent participant in the lives of the millions of people who have greeted others and said farewells within its halls.

In 1884, the rail line served by the station was acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad, making it possible for passengers to travel the length of the Eastern Seaboard without interruption.

By 1906, the number of passengers exceeded the station's capacity, and plans were made to replace the original structure, which was then called Union Station.

Five years later, a new station, designed by Kenneth W. Murchison of New York, had taken the place of the outdated building. It was renamed Pennsylvania Station in 1928.

This year, construction began on a parking garage with a 550-car capacity, which will mean yet another new look for the station in the coming year.

Nearly 1.5 million people pass through the train station each year. Although thousands of people will pass through this

Christmas season -- headed for places as close as New York City or as far away as Vancouver, British Columbia -- the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest day on the platforms, with nearly 5,000 people coming and going.

Those going to Vancouver, by the way, should be prepared to travel by train for three days and to change trains in Chicago, then, from Seattle, take an Amtrak bus for the trip's final leg.

People going on a journey are usually too busy to notice the finer details, but many parts of Penn Station merit stopping and appreciating.

For nearly 40 years, the station's skylights were blacked out, having been painted over in the early days of World War II. It was not until 1980 that the last of the paint was scraped off the panes and light once again shone through.

The outside of the building is adorned with a great deal of intricate stone work, including a bas-relief eagle around the large clock at the top of the building.

Those waiting to board a train or pick up arriving friends can take a moment to read up on the station at the kiosk in the waiting area.

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