The 1913 Beaux Arts train station is the city’s most spectacular point of arrival. The station played an important role in the nation’s historic preservation movement, after a series of legal battles that culminated in the 1978 Supreme Court decision affirming NYC’s landmark laws. One notable oddity: The constellations on the Main Concourse ceiling are drawn in reverse, as if seen from heaven. (For more information on tours, call 212-697-1245.)
Grand Central Terminal, Main Concourse
Grand Central Terminal opened on February 2, 1913, on the site of the old Grand Central Station (1900) and Grand Central Depot (1871), both of which had above-ground railway tracks. The terminal was designed by architectural firms Reed and Stem, and Warren and Wetmore, who moved the newly electrified train tracks below ground.
When Grand Central Terminal opened, it was the busiest train station in the country. In 1947, 65 million people (the equivalent of 40 percent of the population) traveled through the terminal. Today it has more working platforms than any other station in the world.
Grand Central Terminal received New York Landmark status in 1967 (and National Historic Landmark status in 1976). However, developers proposed building a 55-story tower in its place the following year, due in part to plummeting rail revenues and soaring real-estate prices.
The 80,000-square-foot Main Concourse at the heart of Grand Central Terminal has 60-foot windows at each end, and 125-foot vaulted ceilings. The cerulean ceiling mural was designed by French painter Paul Helleu, and portrays the October-to-March zodiac and 2,500 stars. The 60 largest stars are illuminated with fiber optics; the rest are painted in gold leaf.
The information booth at the center of the Main Concourse features a marble-and-brass pagoda with a four-sided clock on top. The clock faces are made of opal, with an estimated value between $10 million and $20 million. The pagoda also contains a hidden staircase that leads to the lower level, but that’s not all Grand Central Terminal conceals. In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived and departed via “secret” track 61, whose platform featured direct elevator access to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
After decades of neglect, Grand Central Terminal was restored between 1996 and 1998. It now houses the New York Transit Museum Annex, a tennis court, 50 shops and 25 dining outlets, including the Oyster Bar & Restaurant, which has been operational since the terminal opened.
Vanderbilt Hall (formerly the Main Waiting Room) hosts a number of events and exhibits...
...including Grand Central Terminal’s annual Holiday Fair.
The Kissing Room at Grand Central Terminal is officially called the Biltmore Room, because of its location under the old Biltmore Hotel (now the Bank of America building). Passengers on the 20th Century Limited express train (1902–1967) would arrive here and greet their loved ones, earning it the popular romantic moniker.
French sculptor Jules-Alexis Coutan designed the sculptures of Minerva (goddess of wisdom), Hercules (representing strength) and Mercury (god of speed) on Grand Central Terminal’s exterior, collectively titled “Transportation.” At 50 feet tall and 60 feet wide, it was considered the world’s largest sculptural group when unveiled in 1914.
|Venue name:||Grand Central Terminal, Main Concourse||Contact:|
42nd St to 44th St
|Cross street:||between Vanderbilt and Lexington Aves|
|Transport:||Subway: 42nd St S, 4, 5, 6, 7 to 42nd St–Grand Central|
Average User Rating
3.5 / 5
- 5 star:1
- 4 star:0
- 3 star:0
- 2 star:1
- 1 star:0
I <3 Grand Central Terminal... This place inspired me to write the first book in the Melonie Goes to Series... Called Melonie Goes to Grand Central Terminal. Available on www.createspace.com/4310556
This tour was not what I expected -- a walking tour of Grand Central and its neighborhood. Rather, after 3 hours (including a 45 minute lecture inside the lobby of the building across from the terminal, which did not center on the terminal itself but centered on a broad history of the city, railroading, and the United States. This was fine, but the tour guide was simply wrong on many points. We then moved outside for another 30 minutes, which touched on the architecture of the terminal, which was the most interesting part but also included diatribes on federal subsidies to the airline industry etc. When we finally got inside the terminal (and hour and a half into the "tour," the guide was determined to make the point that Columbia University was not part of the Ivy league as it had not been founded before the American Revolution (which he asserted was a criteria, but I'm guessing that that he'd never heard of a university called Cornell) and minimizing the contributions of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in "saving" Grand Central (a particular bone of contention of his was that the city would not allow him to have a plaque placed honoring his friend who was the lawyer who fought for historic preservation). This was 50 minutes -- just getting into the main part of the terminal. We jumped off the tour after three hours (most people had by this point). Some of the points this gentleman made were quite interesting but it just so wide-ranging and so long that it was sometimes tough to find those worthwhile nuggets. If you go, go expecting not a formal National Trust type professional tour concerning Grand Central, but rather "one man's view of the world," sometimes centering on that big building in front of you (but sometimes not).