This week’s Baltimore Building of the Week for Dr. John Breihan includes a great photo of the historic Penn Station prior to the installation of the controversial Man/Woman sculpture–
Louis Sullivan’s skyscraper style (as seen in Baltimore’s Equitable Bank Building featured last week) made full use of modern steel-framed construction and electrical appliances like elevators. But in the 1890s it was superseded by a style with equally advanced technology but not based on Sullivan’s famous pronouncement that “Form follows function.” Inspired by – and named after – the great French architecture school, the Ecole de Beaux-Arts, this new style combined modern steel-framed construction with historical European styles. Penn Station, completed in 1911, is a good example. Planned to handle several streams of travel on several different levels, it nevertheless presents a serene classical façade to viewers approaching up Charles Street – balustrade roofline, modillioned cornice, paired Roman columns, rusticated stone base. The equally classical interior has undergone several restorations since the 1970s. In the 1990s a connection to Baltimore’s new light rail system was added. As it approaches its 100th birthday Penn Station shows how old buildings, well maintained can continue to serve the community.