Now looking back, through films and books, I understand what it was all about. "The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station" by Lorraine B. Diehl is the best book on the subject that I've come across. Her analysis of the rise and fall of McKim's great station is both awe-inspiring and heart-breaking. The smattering of beautiful photographs is a plus, as well. Penn Station's demise, of course, could be regarded solely as a loss for the city but, as Ms. Diehl explains, the real legacy of the destruction was the enormous preservation/conservation movement that followed. In the aftermath, so many other buildings were spared a similar fate.
There are those who say that the people behind Penn Station's demolition were justified (Ms. Diehl rightly avoids villifying anyone). The apologists for the destruction claim that Penn Station was too big, in the wrong place, and was in the red. The Empire State Building was erected ten blocks south of the midtown business area and three miles north of the Wall Street district. It was a very big building and rarely had over 50% occupancy until the 1950s, when it finally began earning money. Should it have been knocked down too?