Newark, NJ – Penn Station (NWK)
A study in Art Deco exuberance, the waiting room features colorful terrazzo floors, sculpted wall medallions, metalwork and glowing chandeliers decorated with signs of the Zodiac.
Newark Penn Station
1 Raymond Plaza West
Newark, NJ 07102
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2020): 367,861
- Facility Ownership: New Jersey Transit Corporation / Newark Penn Station Associates
- Parking Lot Ownership: N/A
- Platform Ownership: New Jersey Transit Corporation / Newark Penn Station Associates
- Track Ownership: New Jersey Transit Corporation
Located south of the Passaic River and a few blocks east of the central business district, Newark Penn Station has been a vital regional transportation hub since it opened to the public in 1935. Travelers may access Amtrak intercity passenger trains that run on the busy Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston; New Jersey Transit trains serving central and coastal New Jersey; Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) rapid transit linking Newark and Manhattan; local light rail and bus lines; and intercity passenger busses.
Since the late 19th century, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) had worked to upgrade its properties along the important Washington, D.C.—New York City route. In 1910, the PRR achieved a vision decades in the making: a pair of rail tunnels was completed beneath the Hudson River, finally providing the railroad with a direct link onto the island of Manhattan. To serve passengers in New York City, the famed Pennsylvania Station, designed by the noted architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White, was constructed in Midtown.
In 1928, the PRR inaugurated a major program to electrify the main line between New York City and Wilmington, Del. Five years later, in the depths of the Great Depression, the railroad expanded the electrification project southward to Washington, D.C., with the help of federal loans totaling more than $100 million. This latter phase was viewed by the railroad and the federal government as a way to put laborers back to work while also producing a modern power system that would benefit passenger and freight service in a congested part of the greater Northeast.
Electric locomotives accelerated more quickly than their steam counterparts and could pull longer, heavier trains, therefore increasing the efficiency of rail operations. To facilitate the transition to electric service, the PRR rehabilitated its communication and signal systems and track and roadbeds. New stations were built at Newark and in Philadelphia—both were begun in 1929—while others were renovated. The Newark facility was considered one component of a larger improvement program whose $42 million cost was borne almost evenly between the City of Newark and the PRR. The complete vision included the station building, a viaduct to the southeast containing the platforms, and a new lift bridge over the Passaic River. The new station replaced an earlier brick facility known for its numerous, castle-like turrets.
With great fanfare, Newark Penn station was dedicated on March 23, 1935. In attendance were the vice president of the PRR, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey’s two U.S. Senators, and other railroad and government officials. After the standard congratulatory speeches, attendees were invited to explore a display of new Pullman and PRR cars, as well as a streamlined GG1 electric locomotive. Only two platforms were in service when the station opened to traffic the next day, and it would take a couple of more years for the others to be finished.
To accommodate various modes of transportation, the station was effectively divided into four tiers: the basement held a station on the city’s light rail system; the street level was reserved for busses and taxis as well as passenger services such as ticketing and the waiting room; the viaduct one level above the street contained the platforms for all of the intercity passenger rail lines; and another level above that was a platform area for the Hudson and Manhattan rapid transit line to Manhattan (now PATH). Both the light rail and the rapid transit systems were realigned to serve the new Newark Penn station. By separating these different systems, passengers could head directly to a specific platform without having to navigate through, and congest, other areas.
Like its counterpart in Manhattan, the station was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead and White. The original founders had all died by the 1920s, but the company continued to be an important force in the design world, and had branched away from pure neoclassicism to embrace more modern aesthetics such as the streamlining associated with the Art Deco era of the 1920s and 1930s. Facing Raymond Plaza, the principal façade of light grey Indiana limestone is dominated by two full height archways trimmed in subtle pink granite that is also used for the base. The main entryways are located at the bottom of the arches, and a marquee over the southern doors protects passengers from inclement weather; the northern arch is now filled with a skywalk that connects the station with a nearby hotel.
Highly symmetrical, this elevation displays classical design in its use of stylized pilasters that divide the surface into a regular rhythm of bays. Between each pair of pilasters, tall bands of tripartite windows trimmed in shiny aluminum rise to over 30 feet tall, allowing natural light to flood the waiting room. Following the spring line of the arches, spandrels run across all of the windows, thereby adding a horizontal element that contrasts with the strong verticality of the pilasters and windows. Each spandrel holds an aluminum bas relief of a blooming flower, which in conjunction with the trim of the windows, adds a little sparkle to the otherwise subdued palette of grey limestone.
In the center of the frieze running above the windows and arches, “Pennsylvania Railroad” is carved into the stone, while sculptural panels above the pilasters to the far sides of the arches feature the railroad’s keystone emblem emblazoned on a shield surrounded by leafy boughs. Above the arches, additional panels are carved with images representing the major freight carried by the PRR, which included wheat and livestock.
The greatest ornament is found around the impressive archways, which are filled with large expanses of glass. At the curve of the arch, swags of fruits and flowers—classical motifs—are executed in a modern, streamlined style that produces a two-dimensional effect; bands of ribbons seem to flutter in the wind. In the lintels above the arches, the Greek key is employed, again providing a reference to classical design. At the roofline, parapets in the form of pediments cap the arches and hold clocks at their centers. Upon a closer look, the PRR’s gilded keystone emblem is spied at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 positions, while the other numbers are indicated by triangles. To the sides, hour glasses represent the passing of time, and are surrounded by abstract vines and flowers. In the evening, the clock face is lighted from its center, and at a distance, it appears like a golden sunburst.
Inside, the southern two-thirds of the building is devoted to passenger use, and includes the main waiting room which soars to more than 40 feet in height. Ticket counters were built into the east wall, and benches were arranged around a central aisle running down the room. The original benches remain in place; constructed of grey walnut, they have inlaid aluminum decoration that includes the PRR emblem and stylized flowers. Colorful and spacious, bright and welcoming, the room includes many fine materials and decorative finishes. Red terrazzo floors have black and yellow insets trimmed in brass that echo the floral motifs found on the exterior. Up above, the slightly bowed ceiling is a deep and rich blue. Down its length runs a wide band of gilded wavy lines that provide the sense of movement that is so essential to Art Deco design; perpendicular to this band are belts of straight lines that span the width of the room.
The lower section of the walls is covered in a wainscoting of rose yellow travertine from Montana, while the upper portion is composed of an acoustic material that dulled the sound of the trains coming from the neighboring concourse. In unison with the exterior, pilasters are employed on the upper walls to divide the surface into bays, which in turn feature panels at whose centers are found a series of sculpted medallions. Taken together, they trace the evolution of transportation, and present images including a canoe, covered wagon, electric locomotive, and an airplane flying on a cloudy, moonlit night. Aluminum grill work is employed throughout the lobby, but most noticeably in the door surrounds on the north and south walls. Surmounted with clocks draped in garlands of foliage, floral and star motifs predominate. At night, the large room is primarily lighted by four globe chandeliers, each five feet in diameter and weighing 800 pounds. Crafted of white bronze and flashed opal glass, the glowing celestial orbs are ringed by bands of figures representing the signs of the Zodiac.
The platforms are enclosed with walls of buff brick punctuated by horizontal bands of windows; the roof also has skylights to let in additional sunlight. The train shed’s highly visible arched trusses resemble those of the suburban concourse at Philadelphia’s 30th Street station, which was constructed in the same period. Where the various steel components meet, the exposed rivets give a sense of strength and solidity befitting the PRR, which at the height of its wealth and influence in the early 20th century was considered one of the world’s most formidable corporations. Down at street level where the viaduct passes over roadways, the entryways display sculptural ornamentation including eagles that survey the scene with firm gazes and outstretched wings.
In the late 1990s, Newark Penn Station was renovated by NJ TRANSIT at a total cost of $40.8 million. Planned and executed by the architectural firm of Beyer, Blinder & Belle with Vollmer Associates, the project addressed the complete rehabilitation of the building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The work entailed the cleaning and re-pointing of the exterior masonry; removal of lead paint and asbestos; cleaning and restoration of the walls, floors, and ceiling of the main waiting room; repair and polishing of the decorative metal work and the Zodiac chandeliers; and renovation of the ticket desks and office areas. In addition, a new 20,000 square foot concourse and waiting room was added to allow access to the intercity and commuter rail platforms from the east side of the building.
Over the next decade, access to the facility was enhanced through work funded with approximately $14 million granted through the Federal Transit Administration’s Bus and Bus Facilities Program. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, $17.3 million was awarded to New Jersey Transit to improve vehicular and pedestrian movements around the station. Drop-off and pick-up areas were enlarged to solve congestion problems on the west side of the building and new landscaping, signage, and lighting created a more inviting realm for those on foot.
In December 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that the state will devote $190 million to renovations at Newark Penn Station over five years to enhance the customer experience and promote economic development. Immediate work includes a $30 million effort to restore the waiting room benches, install brighter lighting, update restrooms, improve heating, ventilation, air conditioning and air-handling, paint and deep clean the limestone exterior. Outside, the bus lanes will receive new lighting and better drainage. Improved directional and way-finding signage will make it easier for passengers and visitors to navigate the facility.
Dutch colonists purchased Manhattan from the Lenape American Indians in 1626, and a small settlement named New Amsterdam was formed at the southern tip of the island. Over the next few decades, the Dutch formed communities in all of the boroughs now composing New York City, but due to extensive wetlands, the area west of the Hudson River remained largely uninhabited by Europeans until the second half of the century. In the 1660s, settlers from present day New Haven, Connecticut began to inquire with Dutch authorities about founding a village in northern New Jersey. At the time, New Haven was the center of its own eponymous English colony, which was founded in 1638 by strict Puritans who wanted to create a community of God untainted by non-believers. By mid-century, power struggles in England placed pressure on New Haven to merge with the seemingly liberal Connecticut Colony. Those unhappy with the 1664 union sought out a new land to settle on their own terms.
The appeals were positively received by the Dutch, but the New Haven leaders balked at provisions such as one that would have mandated that all officers and magistrates be approved by the Dutch before they were officially placed in office. Years of indecision passed, until international events turned in favor of the New Haven colonists: in 1664, the English seized New Amsterdam and renamed it New York.
With the English in control of the region, the land became easier to obtain, and in 1666 the New Haven party began its westward migration. A group of thirty families from Milford sailed up the Passaic River under the direction of Captain Robert Treat and chose a town site above the marshland. This initial group was soon augmented with new arrivals from New Haven proper, Branford, and Guilford. A dispute with the local American Indians over the title to the land was resolved when the colonists purchased it in exchange for goods such as coats, knives, axes, and wampum. First called New Milford, the village was later renamed Newark, most likely in honor of the Reverend Abraham Pierson, a resident and religious leader who hailed from Newark-On-Trent, England.
The intersection of Market and Broad Streets became the heart of the town, and for many centuries has been referred to as “Four Corners.” In 1667, settlers agreed to a local system of government and divided the land into 6-acre lots; in order to keep the land, the owner had to build a house on the property and live that at least two years before he was allowed to sell it. Numerous streams and ponds provided important water resources to support agriculture while meadows close to the river were used by grazing animals. Apple trees were planted in the fields. A rarity in the area, the fruit brought fame to the community, and it became known for its cider.
The Sydenham House near Branch Brook Park stands as a reminder of this first generation of settlement. The original two story wood clapboard structure was built about 1710, but was later enlarged. As in most pioneer villages, mills were established to process grain and produce wood boards for construction, but most of the residents’ energies were devoted to agricultural pursuits well into the 19th century. During the Revolutionary War, Newark was on the outskirt of fighting in the New York City area, and both the British and American armies traveled through town.
Post-war, Newark developed as a center for leather making. Using the bark of tamarack trees found in the nearby mountains, tanneries finished the animal hides, which were then sent to workshops where they were fashioned into shoes. In the 1810s, Seth Boyden succeeded in creating patent leather, whose high gloss made it popular for formalwear. Within two decades, the city contained more than 150 patent leather manufacturers that employed thousands of workers. Complimentary goods such as hats and lace were also made within the city. New modes of transportation ensured that factories were able to ship the items to burgeoning markets.
Roads and turnpikes had connected Newark with nearby communities, but the road surfaces were difficult to traverse in winter snows and spring rains. In the 1820s, the 106 mile Morris Canal was constructed across the northern half of New Jersey between Phillipsburg, located on the Delaware River, and Jersey City, located on the Hudson across from Manhattan. By connecting the two rivers, goods could be shipped directly to New York or south to Trenton and Philadelphia. Through political pressure, Newark leaders ensured that their city would be on the path of the waterway. Newly arrived Irish laborers were employed to dig the canal bed, and many stayed in Newark to form a community. A decade later, they were joined by German immigrants who influenced the city’s brewing industry.
In a story oft repeated in American history, the Morris Canal enjoyed only a few years of prosperity before its business was taken over by the railroads. Newark and Jersey City were linked by the New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company (NJRR) in fall 1834. Early railroads were often poorly constructed and unreliable, but rapid advances in technology brought improvements that allowed them to dominate transportation markets. The canal was finally abandoned in 1924, and Raymond Boulevard was built over it in downtown. Below street level, the city’s light rail system was placed in the empty trench that had once held four feet of water.
By the end of the century, a handful of railroads served the city, including the Central Railroad of New Jersey, the Delaware Lackawanna, and Western, and the Lehigh Valley. To consolidate its control over the vital Washington, D.C.-New York City rail corridor, in 1871 the PRR took out a 999 year lease on the United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company. It had been formed four years earlier by the merger of the NJRR with the Camden and Amboy Railroad; by leasing the company, the PRR acquired an important ferry franchise and water rights on the Hudson River.
Newark had forged strong trade links with the southern states, and thus the Civil War was not unanimously supported by residents who feared that the city’s economy would plunge. Although trade was disrupted, Newark’s factories turned their energies towards the war effort, producing shoes and hats for the Union Army. After the war ended, the city’s industrial base expanded, and inventions from that era include celluloid and photographic film. In the 1880s, leading products included old standbys such as shoes and hats, as well as buttons, men’s clothing, fertilizers, and chemicals.
Much like Hartford, Conn., Newark grew as a center for insurance services. Even today, it boasts names such as Prudential Insurance Company, which is still headquartered in downtown more than a century after its founding in 1875. As the city became wealthier, officials and citizens spearheaded efforts to beautify its public spaces. In 1898, the Olmsted Brothers, an architectural landscape firm, was hired to design a park system, which came to include Branch Brook, Weequahic, and Riverfront Parks. Designed in a naturalistic style with stands of trees, lakes, and winding paths, these green spaces offer plenty of recreational opportunities and host popular events such as the cherry blossom festival that each spring swaths Branch Brook Park in pink and white blossoms.
Industrial development created new demands for land and a need for better shipping facilities. During World War I, the federal government financed and oversaw the construction of Port Newark on the wetlands southeast of the city, which were dredged and filled. In 1948, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took over responsibility for the facility and modernized its operations while also expanding its footprint. Completed a few years later, the port was one of the first on the East Coast designed to handle the large containers then coming into wide use in the shipping industry. To the west, Newark Liberty International Airport has been a major passenger and freight hub for the New York-Northern New Jersey metropolitan region since its opening in 1928. Located at the frenetic crossing of rail, water, air, and highway routes, Newark continues to play a vital role in moving people and goods across the country and around the globe.
Station Building (with waiting room)
- ATM available
- Quik-Trak kiosks
- Ticket sales office
- Accessible Restrooms
- Unaccompanied child travel allowed
- Vending Machines
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- Checked baggage service available
- Checked baggage storage available
- Bike boxes for sale
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- Bag storage available
- Shipping Boxes for sale
- Baggage assistance provided by Station Staff
- Same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- Accessible platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible ticket office
- Accessible waiting room
- Accessible water fountain
- Accessible same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Accessible overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- High platform
- Wheelchair available
- No wheelchair lift
|Mon||05:30 am - 11:00 pm|
|Tue||05:30 am - 11:00 pm|
|Wed||05:30 am - 11:00 pm|
|Thu||05:30 am - 11:00 pm|
|Fri||05:30 am - 11:00 pm|
|Sat||05:45 am - 11:00 pm|
|Sun||05:45 am - 11:00 pm|
Ticket Office Hours
|Mon||05:30 am - 10:00 pm|
|Tue||05:30 am - 10:00 pm|
|Wed||05:30 am - 10:00 pm|
|Thu||05:30 am - 10:00 pm|
|Fri||05:30 am - 10:00 pm|
|Sat||05:45 am - 10:00 pm|
|Sun||05:45 am - 10:00 pm|
Passenger Assistance Hours
|Mon||05:45 am - 10:00 pm|
|Tue||05:45 am - 10:00 pm|
|Wed||05:45 am - 10:00 pm|
|Thu||05:45 am - 10:00 pm|
|Fri||05:45 am - 10:00 pm|
|Sat||05:45 am - 10:00 pm|
|Sun||05:45 am - 10:00 pm|