That New York City’s Grand Central Terminal would show up on Emporis’ list of the World’s Most Spectacular Train Stations didn’t surprise me. But GCT is not really a train station. It’s truly a terminal, the end of the line. None of the trains using its 67 tracks are passing through to some other place.
Grand Central celebrated its 100th birthday in 2013. Fifteen years before that, a major renovation occurred. Part of that effort was the removal decades of urban filth including an impressive dark layer caused by cigarette smoke.
Grand Central looks largely the way it did when it opened in 1913. There are still 67 tracks. The Oyster Bar downstairs that began serving great seafood in 1913 is still operating. Imagine a 101 year old restaurant that offers such fine fare that reservations remain a must to avoid disappointment. It’s revival in the 1970s was due largely to one man, fabled restaurateur Jerome Brody, who died in 2001.
Grand Central has starred in many movies over the years, but I nominate The Fisher King for “Best Use” of this landmark Beaux-Arts building. Its crowd-filled dance sequence made maximum use of Grand Central’s main concourse, marble floors, epic staircases, etc.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis was the person responsible for Grand Central’s preservation. She led the battle to save it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and ensured the right of cities to protect their historic buildings. I learned this from Beth Harpaz of the Associated Press, who also reported that in 1990 a national census team was sent into GCT’s depths to count its homeless residents. She also let me know that the board listing departures for MetroNorth trains runs 1 minute behind actual time to give passengers an extra minute to board. She called this a “well-kept secret”. I call it a very good idea.
750,000 people pass through Grand Central each day and Ruth and I have often been among them. We have boarded trains there to New Haven to visit Yale and Poughkeepsie to avoid high rental car costs, celebrated special occasions at the Oyster Bar, stopped in just to look around, etc. Always take the time to study the ceiling, a backwards depiction of the zodiac. And if you have time now, check out The Daily Beast’s Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years, 100 Facts. One of my favorites involves the 4-sided clock over the information circle in its main concourse. Its faces are genuine opal and it’s worth up to $20 million.