Despite our best efforts, life—sometimes with the help of a wrecking ball—reminds us that nothing lasts forever, not even architecture that defines a location or cultural era. The 20th century saw the rise of buildings that reached iconic status for their impact on aesthetics, pop culture, and daily life, only to meet their untimely demolition, usually in favor of a more modern and arguably less-inspiring structure. Even the work of our most celebrated architects isn’t safe from destruction, like McKim, Mead & White’s Pennsylvania Station, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel, or Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg Cyclorama. Here, AD has compiled a list of notable buildings from the 1900s that have been razed (and one that’s about to be), whose legacies, for better or worse, stand as a tacit acceptance of time.
The original Pennsylvania Station, the beloved bygone New York City landmark, was built in 1910 by the legendary firm McKim, Mead & White. Owned by Pennsylvania Railroad, the Beaux Arts building was demolished in 1963 because of a decline in railway ridership and replaced with Madison Square Garden and the current iteration of Penn Station.
Completed in 1906, the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel was a destination resort hotel that graced the shoreline of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Designed by Will Price, the grand structure was featured in multiple movies, including Gary Marshall’s Beaches, and once hosted Winston Churchill. In 1978, the historic structure was demolished to make way for a casino.
After demolishing the original Savoy Hotel, Harry S. Black, then owner of the Plaza Hotel, used the site to build the Savoy-Plaza Hotel, which opened in 1927. The McKim, Mead & White–designed building was an iconic structure along the edge of New York City’s Central Park until its demolition in 1965, making way for the General Motors Building.
The Brown Derby restaurant, also known as the Little Hat, opened on Wilshire Boulevard in 1926 across the street from the celeb-studded Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel. The eatery, still an icon of the city’s architectural history, was demolished in 1980 and turned into a parking lot.