Thursday, 02 May 2013 00:00Now through the end of the year, a small piece of the original Penn Station is here in Oyster Bay. It is the carving of an eagle head, once part of the decorations on the façade of the old Pennsylvania Station now on view at the Oyster Bay Rail Road Museum Preview Center at 102 Audrey Ave. You can visit Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is there courtesy of David Morrison, former LIRR Oyster Bay Branch Manager, railroad historian and author on the book Cast Iron Eagles of Grand Central Station, and its owners, the daughters of Albert Fritsch.
While most New Yorkers call it “Grand Central Station” Morrison said it is really a terminal in that train trips end there. The station was taken down in 1910 to make room for Grand Central Terminal. The OBRM has copies of his book for sale.
Morrison is also an expert on the stone eagles of Penn Station. It was because of his expertise that he was contacted by the daughters of Fritsch, who found and rescued the eagle head now on view in Oyster Bay. It was created by sculptor Adolph A. Weinman, for Pennsylvania Station’s original cornice. A mechanic for the Pennsylvania Railroad, Fritsch found the head when it was getting ready to be dumped during the early 1960s when the station was being demolished. The destruction of that historic New York building was the act that spurred the efforts of Jacqueline Kennedy to work to preserve the landmark Grand Central Station/Terminal. Grand Central Station is the location of the New York Transit Museum where the eagle was on view in 2010.
Fritsch brought the 45-pound eagle home to display on his lawn in Freeport, located on one of its canals. His daughters inherited the eagle and moved it to Poughkeepsie after he died in 1992. The daughters, Mary Fritsch and Margaret Fritsch Flitsch (her husband’s name is similar to her maiden name) named it Albert after their father,
The daughters contacted Morrison using the Internet.
Morrison explained, “There are 14 large free-standing eagles and four smaller ones to a total of 18. Albert’s eagle is number 19 and there are three that are unaccounted for and which might have gone to the dump in the Meadowlands in New Jersey where the other debris from the building was sent.” Those last four were on the top of the cornice, and are not fully articulated, missing a wing.
Morrison arranged for the eagle to be shown at the New York Transit Museum in Grand Central Terminal/Station in 2011 for their exhibition “The Once and Future Pennsylvania Station.”
“My wife Diane and I drove up to Poughkeepsie and drove it down to Grand Central Terminal. The eagles were on Grand Central Station when it was demolished in 1910 when Grand Central Terminal was started and then opened on Feb. 1 of 1913. This year was its 100th anniversary.”
Morrison said, “What is interesting for you to mention in Oyster Bay is that the original Grand Central Depot was the first building that opened in 1871 on 42nd Street. In 1898 the depot was expanded. Two stories with four towers were added and that is when the eagles were placed on the building. In 1898 the architect of the expansion of the depot building was Bradford Lee Gilbert, the same person who designed the Oyster Bay Railroad Station.”
So in a way, Albert the Eagle is close to its creator today.
Morrison said the Fritsch sisters want to share him and his stories with others and believes he will be displayed elsewhere after his visit to Oyster Bay. For more information about the OBRM please call 558-7036.