GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL







GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL (station or depot) is truly a magnificent and breathtaking structure.  It should be experienced both at rush hour with its huge crowds of subway riders and Metro North railroad passengers and at a quieter time of the day.  Grand Central Depot, constructed by Cornelius Vanderbilt, was built at 42nd Street and Park Avenue and when completed in 1871 it was North America's largest railroad station.  A statue of Vanderbilt can be found at one of the entrances to Grand Central Terminal.  (The old and original Grand Central Depot had been located at 26th Street at Fifth and Madison Avenues and would later become the first Madison Square Garden.)   

The structure we know as Grand Central today replaced the original Grand Central Depot building and opened on February 2, 1913.  It is a Beau Art design that was created for the New York Central Railroad corporation (hence its name) by the architectural firm of Reed and Stem and Warren and Wetmore.  The 13 foot clock on the building's exterior has sculptures of Mercury, Hercules and Minerva by Julea A. Coutan.  The terminal has massive marble stairways, 75-foot windows, a ceiling with a zodiac mural of stars, a whispering gallery (located in the dining concourse where low arches carry sounds), and a secret passage (an underground tunnel used by U.S. Presidents to go directly to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where they stay when visiting NYC).  Grand Central Terminal is built of various materials including granite (from Stony Creek in Branford, Connecticut), marble, and limestone.  The granite from Stony Creek was used in Grand Central's exterior base and also on the Statue of Liberty's base, in the Brooklyn Bridge and in Grant's Tomb. 

Grand Central Terminal is located near another major NYC landmark, the Chrysler Building, on East 42nd Street. 

Grand Central Terminal is magically turned into a big ballroom where everyone is dancing in the film, The Fisher King (1991).  Look closely at the glass windows and towers in the bottom photo; they are actually catwalks “designed by Whitney Warren to maximize the daylight entering the terminal.”  Within these seven-story glass towers are offices used by railroad employees.   

It’s unbelievable that New Yorkers, led by former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the Municipal Art Society, and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, would have to fight to prevent Grand Central from being destroyed in 1967. The railroad wanted to demolish the terminal and replace it with office buildings.  The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Grand Central Terminal as a landmark and it was saved.  [The Commission was established in 1965 following the demolition of the architecturally distinguished train station, Pennsylvania Station, a great loss to the City and nation.  The beauty of Penn Station was documented by the American photographer Berenice Abbott in her exquisite black and white photographs of the station which are some of her best known works.  Abbott’s photographs of New York City for the Federal Arts Project (from 1934-58) are published in a collection called Changing New York.]

 

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