Fun fact: the building known as Grand Central Station ceased its operations in 1910. The location has been named Grand Central Terminal since 1913, but stubborn New Yorkers refused to refer to it as such and the name didn’t stick. To this day, if you refer to the area as anything other than Grand Central Station, people will look at you a little funny!
Whatever name you call it by, there’s no denying that Grand Central is a major tourist draw. Only two blocks away from the Westgate New York, the structure is located near other popular New York City landmarks including the Empire State Building, Times Square, and the Rockefeller Center. No visit to the Big Apple is complete without dropping by the Grand Central Station, and here’s why.
It’s a Living Piece of New York History
Grand Central has a long history that spans 149 years of transport innovation. It was first built as Grand Central Depot in 1871 by American tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. By the 20th century, commuter traffic had increased enough to drive demand for a new terminal to be built. The original structure was torn down and a new one was constructed, which opened in 1900 as Grand Central Station. However, a tragic accident involving two steam locomotives prompted necessary upgrades to convert to electric trains and build facilities that could support them. Construction on what we now know as Grand Central Terminal began in 1903 and was finally completed 10 years later in 1913. In 1976, the structure was declared a National Historic Landmark.
The Grand Central Station is the largest train terminal in the world, occupying 48 acres in midtown Manhattan. It currently contains 44 platforms that serve a total of 67 tracks as well as a rail yard and sidings; expansions are still underway to serve the millions of commuters that go through it every day.
It’s a Thing of Beauty
The Greatest City in the World demands a landmark deserving of its magnificence. Grand Central Terminal as it stands today is the result of the combined efforts of some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. Its Beaux-Arts style of design was supervised by architectural firm Reed and Stem, who also worked on Seattle’s King Street Station and the Jerome Robbins Theater, now known as the Baryshnikov Arts Center in Hell’s Kitchen. Another firm, Warren and Wetmore, oversaw cosmetic exterior and interior alterations. The firm’s long list of accomplishments includes the New York Yacht Club and the Crown Building.
These firms were assisted by a team of French artists and architects that were responsible for some of the most recognizable fixtures at the terminal today. Even if you’ve never been to New York, you may have already seen these works in films or television. For example, Grand Central’s south façade can be spotted in the background of some scenes in the third act of Marvel’s The Avengers (2012). This section features several distinct works of art, including the Glory of Commerce sculpture, the Tiffany clock, and the Vanderbilt statue.
The interiors are something else as well. Some might say that Grand Central’s main concourse alone is a work of art unto itself; it’s been immortalized in such films as Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959) and The Fisher King (1991) starring Robin Williams. Tennessee marble was used for the floors and Botticino marble for the wall trim. The elliptical barrel-vaulted ceiling is decorated with an elaborate celestial mural designed by French painter Paul César Helleu. Numerous other works can also be found on the walls, in passageways, and other common areas of the terminal such as the Graybar Passage mural, the As Above, So Below mosaic, the Sirshasana sculpture, and more.
It’s Not Just a Terminal
Aside from being a historical landmark, an architectural triumph, and a magnificent informal art museum, Grand Central is also a shopping and dining destination. From its inception, great pains were taken to ensure passenger comfort and convenience—a tradition it has continued into the present day. The terminal houses several retail shops, restaurants, cafés, cocktail bars, and service establishments, some of them recognized as veritable New York institutions.
There’s Grand Central Market, located between the Graybar Building and the 4/5/6 Subway lines on Lexington Avenue. It offers a European-style gourmet shopping experience with a focus on high-quality gourmet products sold by 13 local vendors. The lower-level Dining Concourse features 20 fast-casual restaurants, including Shake Shack, Magnolia Bakery, and the revered 107-year-old Grand Central Oyster Bar.
Grand Central is so much more than a stop on a route. It’s an experience that represents the best of what New York City has to offer, and that makes it worth seeking out.