The beautiful Beaux Arts-style Penn Station was constructed in 1911, and it looks like the windows have not been washed since. The Venetian blinds have not been relieved of their crookedness or the boxes and other paraphernalia at the windows removed from their obtrusive locations. This unattractive scene faces all who pass the station going north on Charles Street and south on St. Paul Street heading downtown.
Signs designating the adjacent area as the Station North Arts and Entertainment District have been posted. The old parcel post station has been revitalized. Expensive housing has been built several blocks away on Calvert Street. Outdoor cafes line nearby streets.
The Maryland Historical Trust has awarded tax credits. The University of Baltimore and the Baltimore Development Corp. have gotten involved in helping to improve the area. Developers speak of building a 72-room hotel atop the station.
The city Board of Estimates just gave approval for the purchase of $2.5 million worth of property in the area, including the Chesapeake Restaurant, which railroad passengers cannot avoid passing as they leave the station.
Moreover, hundreds of thousands of riders - 911,000 in 2006 - pass through the station, and the number steadily increases.
Look at Union Station in Washington, D.C. - it's beautiful and exciting. Nothing is lacking there. The station in Wilmington, Del., is celebrating its 100th anniversary and seeking ways to improve its aesthetics and amenities. The stately 30th Street Station in Philadelphia hosts weddings, banquets and community events in its North Waiting Room. Would you invite your friends to Penn Station in Baltimore? Certainly not.
Get on board, Amtrak. We want Penn Station in Baltimore cleaned and prettied up. At least do the windows.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Margaret D. Pagan is a local writer who has driven daily along Charles and St. Paul streets for many years and occasionally travels to Philadelphia