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.
Unlike more touristy New York attractions, locals visit Grand Central Terminal every day. The striking Beaux Arts building is simultaneously a major transportation hub and an iconic New York location, immortalized in movies such as 1978’s Superman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Avengers. It’s also where Improv Everywhere’s 2008 “Frozen Grand Central” took place, a.k.a. the stunt that launched a thousand flash mobs. In 2013, Grand Central Terminal turns a venerable 100 years old—an exhibition and a year’s worth of special events are planned. In the meantime, click through our photo tour to learn about this grand old train station.
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