Grand Central Terminal
|Metro-North Railroad terminal|
Main Concourse, 2015
|Location||89 East 42nd Street at Park Avenue,|
New York, NY 10017
|Line(s)||Park Avenue Main Line|
43 island platforms, 1 side platform
(6 tracks with Spanish solution)
56 passenger tracks (30 on upper level, 26 on lower level)
43 in use for passenger service
|Connections||MTA New York City Subway:|
at Grand Central–42nd Street
NYCT Bus: M1, M2, M3, M4, M42, M101, M102, M103, Q32, X27, X28, X63, X64, X68
MTA Bus: BxM1, QM21
|Disabled access||Accessible[N 1]|
|Station code||GCT, NYG|
Opened February 2, 1913
|Passengers (FY 2017)||66,952,732 Annually, based on weekly estimate (Metro-North)|
Grand Central Terminal
Interactive map highlighting Grand Central Terminal
|Architect||Reed and Stem;|
Warren and Wetmore
|NRHP reference #||75001206|
|Added to NRHP||January 17, 1975|
August 11, 1983 (increase)
|Designated NHL||December 8, 1976|
|Designated NYCL||August 2, 1967|
|Designated NYCL||September 23, 1980 (interior)|
Grand Central Terminal (GCT; also referred to as Grand Central Station or simply as Grand Central) is a commuter rail terminal located at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Grand Central is the southern terminus of the Metro-North Railroad's Harlem, Hudson and New Haven Lines. The terminal serves Metro-North commuters traveling to the Bronx in New York City; Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties in New York; and Fairfield and New Haven counties in Connecticut. The terminal also contains a connection to the New York City Subway at Grand Central–42nd Street. It is the third-busiest train station in North America after Toronto Union Station and New York Penn Station, and the second-busiest in the United States after New York Penn Station.
The distinctive architecture and interior design of Grand Central Terminal's station house have earned it several landmark designations, including as a U.S. National Historic Landmark. The terminal is one of the world's ten most visited tourist attractions, with 21.9 million visitors in 2013, excluding train and subway passengers.
Grand Central Terminal was built by and named for the New York Central Railroad, though it also served New York Central's successors as well as the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. From 1971 to 1991, the terminal also served trains using Amtrak's Empire Corridor, which consolidated all of its services at nearby Pennsylvania Station upon completion of the Empire Connection. Limited Amtrak service also served the station during the summers of 2017 and 2018. The East Side Access project, which will bring Long Island Rail Road service to the terminal, is expected to be completed in late 2022.
Grand Central covers 48 acres (19 ha) and has 44 platforms, more than any other railroad station in the world. Its platforms, all below ground, serve 30 tracks on the upper level and 26 on the lower. Currently, 43 tracks are in use for passenger service; two dozen more serve as a rail yard and sidings.
Grand Central Terminal is owned by Midtown TDR Ventures, a private company. In 2018, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which operates Metro-North and owns most of its other stations, announced that it would buy the terminal along with the Hudson and Harlem Lines.
- 1 Name
- 2 Interior
- 2.1 Main Concourse
- 2.2 Other spaces on the main floor
- 2.3 Dining Concourse
- 2.4 Other foodservice and retail spaces
- 2.5 Vanderbilt Tennis Club and former studios
- 2.6 Platforms and tracks
- 2.7 Grand Central North
- 3 Architecture
- 4 Related structures
- 5 History
- 5.1 Context
- 5.2 Grand Central Depot
- 5.3 Grand Central Station
- 5.4 Replacement
- 5.5 Proposals for demolition and towers
- 5.6 Restorations and expansion
- 5.7 Proposed purchase by the MTA
- 6 Innovations
- 7 Art and music at Grand Central
- 8 In popular culture
- 9 Gallery
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
Grand Central was named after the New York Central Railroad, the company that constructed the station house and its two predecessors. Although the terminal has been officially called "Grand Central Terminal" since the present structure opened, it has "always been more colloquially and affectionately known as Grand Central Station", a name of one of the earlier railroad stations on the same site.[N 2] "Grand Central Station" is the name of the nearby U.S. Post Office station at 450 Lexington Avenue. but may also refer to the Grand Central–42nd Street subway station that is located next to the terminal. The name was also used for the renovated Grand Central Depot from 1900 until its closure in 1910.
The original proposal for Grand Central Terminal, devised by New York Central vice president William J. Wilgus, contained two passenger levels: the upper level for intercity trains, and the lower level for commuter trains. The present Main Concourse was used by departing intercity passengers, while the present Dining Concourse below it was used by commuters. This allowed for the segregation of intercity and commuter-rail passengers, but with the cessation of intercity service, this separation is lo longer in use. Though the original plan for Grand Central's interior was designed by Reed and Stem, the layout in use today was designed by Whitney Warren of Warren and Wetmore.
Grand Central Terminal's 48-acre (19 ha) basements are among the largest in the city. This includes M42, a sub-basement under the terminal that contains the AC-to-DC converters used to supply DC traction current to the tracks. The exact location of M42 is closely guarded and it does not appear on maps. Two of the original rotary converters remain, kept solely as a historical record. During World War II, this facility was closely guarded because its sabotage would have impaired troop movement on the Eastern Seaboard. It is said that any unauthorized person entering the facility during the war risked being shot on sight; the rotary converters could have easily been crippled by a bucket of sand. The Abwehr, a German espionage service, sent two spies to sabotage it; they were arrested by the FBI before they could strike.
The terminal building primarily uses granite, which emits radiation. People who work full-time in the station receive an average dose of 525 mrem/year, more than permitted in nuclear power facilities.
The Main Concourse, originally known as the Express Concourse, is located on the upper platform level of Grand Central, in the geographical center of the station building. At 275 ft (84 m) long by 120 ft (37 m) wide by 125 ft (38 m) high,:74 (about 35,000 square feet total) the cavernous Main Concourse is usually filled with bustling crowds and is often used as a meeting place. The vastness of the concourse was an intentional feature meant to evoke the terminal's "grand" status.
The ticket booths are located in the Main Concourse, although many have been abandoned or repurposed since the introduction of ticket vending machines. The concourse's large American flag was first hung inside a few days after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
The main information booth is in the center of the concourse. The four-faced brass clock on top of the information booth, perhaps the most recognizable icon of Grand Central, was designed by Henry Edward Bedford and cast in Waterbury, Connecticut. Each of the four clock faces is made from opalescent glass (now often called opal glass or milk glass), though urban legend has it that the faces are made of opal and that Sotheby's and Christie's have estimated their value to be between $10 million and $20 million. The clock was restored in the 1950s. A New York Times article from 1954 noted that the faces each had diameters of 24 inches (61 cm), and that there was a "secret" door within the marble and brass pagoda, which concealed a spiral staircase leading to the lower-level information booth.
The upper-level tracks are reached from the Main Concourse or from various hallways and passages branching off from it.
The Main Concourse is surrounded on its west and east sides by balconies. The balcony level is one story above the Main Concourse and is accessed by the east and west stairs. The east side is occupied by an Apple Store, while the west side is occupied by the Italian restaurant Cipriani Dolci (part of Cipriani S.A.), the Campbell Bar, and Michael Jordan's Steakhouse.
The original blackboard with arrival and departure information by Track 36 was replaced by an electromechanical display in the main concourse over the ticket windows that displayed times and track numbers of arriving and departing trains. Dubbed a Solari board after its Italian manufacturer, it contained rows of flip panels that displayed train information, and its many displays would flap simultaneously to reflect changes in train schedules.
The flap-board destination sign was replaced with high-resolution mosaic LCD modules also manufactured by Solari Udine. Similar modules are now also used on the trains, both on the sides to display the destination, and on the interior to display the time, next station, station stops, and other passenger information. In December 2017, as part of the Customer Service Initiative, the MTA awarded contracts to replace the display boards.
Other spaces on the main floor
Branching from the Main Concourse are a series of rooms and hallways. These include the 42nd Street Passage, the Shuttle Passage, Vanderbilt Hall, the Biltmore Room, and the Station Master's Office, as well as three parallel passageways: Grand Central Market, the Graybar Passage, and the Lexington Passage. Each passage is approximately 40 feet wide and 240 feet long, spanning from the Main Concourse east to Lexington Avenue by 43rd Street.
Vanderbilt Hall is an event space housing a food hall on its west side. It was named for the family that built and owned the station and it lies between the terminal's south entrance and the Main Concourse to its north. It was formerly the main waiting room for the terminal, especially for intercity travelers. When intercity service ceased at Grand Central, the room began being used by several hundred homeless people, and thus employees removed its double-sided oak benches and the space was closed off.[N 3] In 1998 the hall was renovated and renamed Vanderbilt Hall, and became used for special events. It is now used for the annual Christmas Market and special exhibitions, and is still rented for private events. In 2016, the west half of the hall became the Great Northern Food Hall, a Nordic-themed upscale food court with five pavilions. It is the first long-term tenant of the space, although New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission has ensured that nothing is installed permanently. Claus Meyer, co-founder of Noma, is operating the food hall and an adjacent restaurant.
A men's smoking room and women's waiting room were formerly located on the west and east sides of Vanderbilt Hall, respectively. In 2016, Meyer renovated the men's room into Agern, an 85-seat fine dining and Michelin starred restaurant, also Nordic-themed and designed.
The Biltmore Room is a 64-by-80-foot (20 by 24 m) marble hall northwest of the Main Concourse that serves as an entrance to tracks 39 through 42. It was originally known as the incoming train room and colloquially as the "Kissing Room", as it was a waiting room by tracks originally used for intercity trains. It was located directly below the New York Biltmore Hotel.
The Biltmore Room was completed in 1915. For decades, the room was known for travelers embracing loved ones, sometimes before checking in at the Biltmore Hotel. Conversion of the Biltmore Hotel into the Bank of America Plaza in 1982 and 1983 damaged the room, as did neglect of the terminal with the rise of commercial aviation in the mid-20th century. In 1985, Giorgio Cavaglieri was hired to restore the room, which at the time had cracked marble, makeshift lighting, and series of lockers. Later, the room held a newsstand, flower stand, and shoe shine booths. In 2015, the MTA awarded a contract to refurbish the Biltmore Room into an arrival area for Long Island Rail Road passengers as part of the East Side Access project. As part of the project, the room's booths and stands would be replaced by a pair of escalators and an elevator to the deep-level LIRR concourse.
The room also featured an old blackboard that displays arrival and departure times of New York Central trains. The board is in its original location where it was actively used, though since the introduction of mechanical boards in the 1960s, the board has stood as a relic.
The Graybar Passage extends from the northeast corner of the Main Concourse, underneath the Graybar Building, directly east to Lexington Avenue. The passageway has seven large transverse arches. The arches and walls are of coursed ashlar travertine, and the floor is terrazzo. The ceiling is composed of seven groin vaults, each of which has an ornamental bronze chandelier. One of the vaults features a mural depicting American transportation. The work was painted in 1927 by muralist Edward Trumbull. The first two vaults viewed from leaving Grand Central featured cumulus clouds, while the third remains, featuring technologies that had significantly affected the world. These include a train pulled by an electric locomotive, a bridge resembling the original design of the city's High Bridge, the construction of a skyscraper, the manufacturing of steel, and several airplanes (including the Spirit of St. Louis) along with a searchlight and radio tower. The mural has a caramel color; the once-bright colors present have faded over time.
The Lexington Passage was historically known as the Hyatt or Commodore Passage after the hotel it ran beneath.
Between the Graybar and Lexington Passages is another passageway, which houses a cluster of food purveyor shops called Grand Central Market. The passageway opened in 1998, and was planned to include 24 vendors on its first floor and a restaurant on its second.
Station master's office
The Station Master's Office, located near Track 36, has Grand Central's only dedicated waiting room. The space has benches, restrooms and a floral mixed media mural on three of its walls. The room's benches were previously located in the former waiting room, now known as Vanderbilt Hall. Since 2008, the area has offered free wireless internet.
The Dining Concourse, below the Main Concourse and connected to it by numerous stairs, ramps, and escalators, provides access to the lower-level tracks. It has central seating and lounge areas, surrounded by restaurants and food vendors.
Two ramps from the main concourse level, and a slight slope from the Dining Concourse, intersect at a space just outside the Oyster Bar. The ramps from the main concourse are located along a west-east axis measuring 302 feet (92 m) long, with a ceiling 84 feet (26 m) high. This intersection contains an archway that is famous for an acoustical quirk that makes it a whispering gallery: someone standing in one corner can hear someone speaking softly in the opposite corner. An overpass to the main concourse passes over the archway; from 1927 until 1998, the sides of the bridge were enclosed by approximately 8-foot-high (2.4 m) walls.
The Dining Concourse used to be called the Suburban Concourse because it handled commuter rail trains. As part of the late-1990s renovation of Grand Central Terminal, stands and restaurants were installed in the concourse. As part of this renovation, escalators linking directly to the main concourse level, where there are additional shops, were added. Since 2015, part of the Dining Concourse has been closed in order to build structural framework that would allow for the construction of stairways and escalators between the concourse and the new LIRR station being built as part of East Side Access.
Other foodservice and retail spaces
The interior of Grand Central Terminal contains restaurants such as the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, as well as various fast food outlets surrounding the Dining Concourse. There are also delis, bakeries, a gourmet and fresh food market, and an annex of the New York Transit Museum. The 40-plus retail stores include newsstands and chain stores, including a Starbucks coffee shop, a Rite Aid pharmacy, and an Apple Store.
Accessed from the exterior or the balcony level, the Campbell is an elegantly restored cocktail lounge, just south of the 43rd Street/Vanderbilt Avenue entrance. It attracts a mix of commuters and tourists. The Campbell was once the office of 1920s tycoon John W. Campbell and replicates the galleried hall of a 13th-century Florentine palace. It opened as a bar, the Campbell Apartment, in 1999. Upon further renovation and a change of ownership in 2017, the bar rebranded itself as the Campbell.
Vanderbilt Tennis Club and former studios
From 1939 to 1964, CBS Television occupied a large portion of the terminal building, particularly above the main waiting room. The space contained two production studios (41 and 42), two "program control" facilities (43 and 44), network master control, and facilities for local station WCBS-TV. In 1958, the world's first major videotape operations facility opened in a former rehearsal room on the seventh floor of the main terminal building. The facility used 14 Ampex VR-1000 videotape recorders. Douglas Edwards with the News broadcast from there for several years, covering among other events John Glenn's 1962 Mercury-Atlas 6 space flight. Edward R. Murrow's See It Now originated from Grand Central, including his famous broadcasts on Senator Joseph McCarthy. The Murrow broadcasts were recreated in George Clooney's movie Good Night, and Good Luck, although the CBS News and corporate offices were not actually in the same building as the film implies. The long-running panel show "What's My Line?" was first broadcast from the GCT studios, as were "The Goldbergs" and Mama. The facility's operations were later moved to the CBS Broadcast Center.
In 1966, the former studio space was converted to Vanderbilt Tennis Club, a sports club with two tennis courts. It was once deemed as the most expensive place to play tennis, with tenants charged $58 an hour to play, until financial troubles forced the club to lower its fees to $40 an hour. The club is so named because it is above Vanderbilt Hall. Real estate magnate Donald Trump bought the club in 1984 after discovering the space while renovating the terminal's exterior. Trump operated the club until 2009. The space is currently occupied by a conductor lounge and a smaller sports facility with a single tennis court.
Platforms and tracks
The terminal holds the Guinness World Record for having the most platforms of any railroad station worldwide. There are 44 platform numbers spread across 28 physical platforms. Of these, 43 are part of island platforms and one is a side platform. Odd-numbered tracks are usually on the east (right) side of the platform; even-numbered tracks on the west (left) side. As of 2016[update], there are 67 tracks, including unused tracks and storage sidings. Of these, 43 tracks are in regular passenger use, serving Metro-North. North of the station, the tracks slope down to facilitate acceleration of departing trains, and slow down arriving trains.
The upper Metro-North level has 42 tracks, including ten tracks used only for storage. The passenger tracks are numbered 11 to 42 east to west. They are bordered on the east by the East Yard, which consists of ten are storage tracks, numbered 1 through 10 from east to west, on the east side of the station. A balloon loop from tracks 38-42, on the far west side of the station, encircles the remaining tracks and connects to storage tracks 1-3 at the far east side of the station, allowing trains to turn around more easily. Tracks 12, 22, and 31 have since been removed. The upper and lower levels have different track layouts, so the upper level is supported by ultra-strong columns, some of which can carry over 7,000,000 foot-pounds force (9,500,000 J).
On the east side of the upper level, north of tracks 1-10, there is a secondary storage yard called the Lex Yard located directly under the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. There are twelve tracks numbered 51 through 65 from east to west, with track numbers 57, 58, and 63 being skipped. There are platforms between tracks 53 and 54, and tracks 61 and 63. Track 61 in particular is known for being a private track for United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt; part of the original design of the Waldorf Astoria, it was mentioned in The New York Times in 1929 and first used in 1938 by John J. Pershing, a top U.S. general during World War I. Roosevelt would travel into the city using his personal train, pull into track 61, and take a specially designed elevator to the surface. It has been used occasionally since Roosevelt's death.
The lower Metro-North level has 27 tracks numbered 100 to 126, east to west, circled by a balloon loop that leads to the upper level. Of these, two were originally intended for mail trains and two were for baggage handling. Only tracks 102–112 and 114–116 on the lower level are used for passenger service. Tracks 116–125 on Metro-North's lower level were demolished to make room for the Long Island Rail Road concourse being built under the Metro-North station as part of the East Side Access project.
The LIRR terminal being constructed as part of East Side Access will contain an additional four platforms and eight tracks numbered 201–204 and 301–304 in two 100-foot-deep (30 m) double-decked caverns below the Metro-North station. The new LIRR station will have four tracks and two platforms in each of two caverns, and each cavern would contain two tracks and one platform on each level. The LIRR concourse will be located on a center level between the LIRR's two track levels.
Grand Central North
Grand Central North is a network of four tunnels that allow people to walk between the station building (located between 42nd and 44th Street) and exits at every street from 45th to 48th Street. The 1,000-foot (300 m) Northwest Passage and 1,200-foot (370 m) Northeast Passage run parallel to the tracks on the upper level, while two shorter tunnels, the 45th Street Cross-Passage and 47th Street Cross-Passage, run perpendicular to the tracks. The 47th Street Cross-Passage is 30 feet (9.1 m) deep and is located in the space between the upper and lower track levels, while the 45th Street cross-passage is 50 feet (15 m) deep and was converted from an existing corridor that was originally used to transport luggage and mail.
The tunnels' street-level entrances are at the northeast corner of East 47th Street and Madison Avenue (Northwest Passage), northeast corner of East 48th Street and Park Avenue (Northeast Passage), and on the east and west sides of 230 Park Avenue (Helmsley Building) between 45th and 46th Streets. The entrances are located inside freestanding enclosed glass structures. A fifth entrance opened in early 2012 on the south side of 47th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues. The 47th Street passage provides access to upper-level tracks, and the 45th Street passage to lower-level tracks. Pedestrians can take an elevator to the 47th Street passage from the north side of East 47th Street, between Madison and Vanderbilt Avenues.
Proposals for these tunnels had been discussed since at least the 1970s. The project, titled the North End Access Project, was approved by the MTA board in 1991. Construction on Grand Central North began in 1994, and it was supposed to be completed in 1997 at a cost of $64.5 million. However, progress was slowed by the incomplete nature of the building's original blueprints and previously undiscovered groundwater beneath East 45th Street. The passageways opened on August 18, 1999, at a final cost of $75 million.
The entrances to Grand Central North were originally open from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. About 6,000 people used the passages on a typical weekend, and about 30,000 on weekdays. Since summer 2006, Grand Central North has been closed on weekends; MTA officials cited low usage and the need to save money.
Grand Central Terminal has both monumental spaces and meticulously crafted detail, especially on its facade. In 2013, historian David Cannadine described it as one of the most majestic buildings of the twentieth century. The facade is based on an overall exterior design by Whitney Warren.
As proposed in 1904, Grand Central Terminal was bounded by Vanderbilt Avenue to the west, Lexington Avenue to the east, 42nd Street to the south, and 45th Street to the north. It included a post office on its east side. The east side of the station house proper is an alley called Depew Place, which was built along with the Grand Central Depot annex in the 1880s and mostly decommissioned in the 1900s when the new terminal was built. The station building was to measure 680 feet (210 m) along Vanderbilt Avenue by 300 feet (91 m) on 42nd Street. The current station fits mostly within the bounds of this footprint.
The station and its rail yard have steel frames. The building also utilizes excessively large columns that could hold the weight of a 20-story office building, which was to be built when additional room was required. The station building was 800 feet (240 m) long, 300 feet (91 m) wide, and 105 feet (32 m) high. The base of the exterior is Stony Creek granite, while the upper portion is of Indiana limestone, from Bedford, Indiana. The interior uses Botticino marble, and most of the remaining masonry is made from concrete. Tennessee marble was used for the floors of the Main Concourse, Biltmore Room, and Vanderbilt Hall, as well as the two staircases in the Main Concourse.
The 13-foot-high (4.0 m) clock in front of the south facade contains the world's largest example of Tiffany glass. It is surrounded by the Glory of Commerce sculptural group, which includes representations of Minerva, Hercules, and Mercury. The sculptures were designed by French sculptor Jules-Felix Coutan and carved by the John Donnelly Company. At its unveiling in 1914, the 48-foot-high (15 m) trio was considered the largest sculptural group in the world.
A statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt, longtime owner of New York Central, is located at the center of its south facade, directly below the Tiffany clock and facing the Park Avenue Viaduct. It was originally part of the facade of the Hudson River Railroad's depot at St. John's Park, near the Holland Tunnel's exit plaza, in the current neighborhood of Tribeca. The statue formed part of a 150-foot (46 m) frieze around the depot that was unveiled in November 1869 and depicted various components of Vanderbilt's life, including his steamships and trains. It was moved to Grand Central in 1929. Ernst Plassmann sculpted the statue, which was dedicated in 1869. The work is of bronze, 8.5 feet (2.6 m) tall, with a 9-foot-tall granite pedestal.
The Main Concourse's ceiling is an elliptical barrel vault, with its base at an elevation of 121.5 feet and its crown at 160.25 feet. There are semicircular windows on the north and south sides. A skylight was installed to provide light into the terminal, and accommodations for a large ceiling light, in case an office building were to be constructed over the terminal.
The ceiling is elaborately decorated with an astronomical mural, conceived in 1912 by Warren with his friend, French portrait artist Paul César Helleu, and executed by James Monroe Hewlett and Charles Basing of Hewlett-Basing Studio, with Helleu consulting. Corps of astronomers and painting assistants worked with Hewlett and Basing. The original ceiling was replaced in the late 1930s to correct falling plaster. By the 1940s, the ceiling had grown moldy because of a lack of maintenance. In 1944, New York Central covered the original ceiling with boards and painted an imitation mural over these boards.
There is a small dark circle amid the stars above the image of Pisces. In a 1957 attempt to improve public morale after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, an American Redstone missile was set up in the Main Concourse. With no other way to erect the missile, the hole was cut to allow a cable to be lowered to lift the rocket into place. Historical preservation dictated that this hole remain as a reminder of the many uses of the Terminal over the years.
By the 1980s, the ceiling was obscured by decades of what was thought to be coal and diesel smoke. Spectroscopic examination revealed that it was mostly tar and nicotine from tobacco smoke, but that there was also some asbestos stuck onto the ceiling. Historians and preservationists wanted the boards removed and the ceiling restored, but the architecture firm renovating Grand Central in the 1980s, Beyer Blinder Belle, deemed the ceiling to be irreversibly damaged. Beyer Blinder Belle officials initially assumed that false ceiling panels could be attached to the original ceiling via suspension wires, but later found that the ceiling was too weak to support these panels. Starting in September 1996, the ceiling was cleaned and restored to its original design. A single dark patch above the Michael Jordan Steakhouse and next to the crab constellation (representing Cancer) was left untouched by renovators to remind visitors of the grime that once covered the ceiling.
The starry ceiling contains several astronomical inaccuracies. While the stars within some constellations appear correctly as they would from earth, other constellations are reversed left-to-right, as is the overall arrangement of the constellations on the ceiling. For example, Orion is correctly rendered, but the adjacent constellations Taurus and Gemini are reversed both internally and in their relation to Orion, with Taurus near Orion's raised arm where Gemini should be. One possible explanation is that the overall ceiling design might have been based on the medieval custom of depicting the sky as it would appear to God looking in at the celestial sphere from outside, but that would have reversed Orion as well. A more likely explanation is partially mistaken transcription of the sketch supplied by Columbia Astronomy professor Harold Jacoby. Though the astronomical inconsistencies were noticed promptly by a commuter in 1913, they have not been corrected in any of the subsequent renovations of the ceiling.
The overlapping letters "G", "C", and "T" are sculpted into friezes atop several windows above the terminal's ticket office. In 2017, the MTA based its new logo for the terminal on the engraved design; MTA officials said its black and gold colors have long been associated with the terminal. The spur of the letter "G" has a depiction of a railroad spike.
Among the buildings modeled on Grand Central's design is the Poughkeepsie station, a Metro-North and Amtrak station in Poughkeepsie, New York. It was also designed by Warren and Wetmore and opened in 1918. Additionally, Union Station in Utica, New York was partially designed after Grand Central, and the stage of Saturday Night Live was designed after the terminal as well.
Baggage building and post office
Grand Central Terminal originally contained an accompanying baggage-handling building. The six-story building was located to the north of the main station building, and was demolished in 1961. It is now the site of the MetLife Building. The baggage facility, which stood apart from Grand Central's other structures, was accessed from the Park Avenue Viaduct, which surrounds the terminal. Passengers unloaded their luggage from taxis or personal vehicles, and elevators brought their luggage to the corresponding train platforms. Biltmore Hotel guests arriving at Grand Central could also get the baggage delivered directly to their rooms.
The subway platforms at Grand Central are accessed from the Main Concourse. The platforms, originally built by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), consist of stops on three lines, now operated by the MTA as part of the New York City Subway. These include the IRT Lexington Avenue Line (serving the 4, 5, 6, and <6> trains), the IRT Flushing Line (serving the 7 and <7> trains), and the IRT 42nd Street Shuttle (connecting to Times Square).
The 42nd Street Shuttle platforms opened in 1904 as an express stop on the original IRT subway. In 1918, the tracks were converted to shuttle use. The Lexington Avenue Line's platforms are located under the southeastern corner of the Metro-North terminal building, to the east of and at a lower level than the shuttle platforms. The platforms are sometimes called the "diagonal station" because they are oriented 45° from the rest of the Manhattan street grid. The Flushing Line platform is deeper than the Lexington Avenue Line's platforms because it is part of the Steinway Tunnel, which descends under the East River to the east of Grand Central. It opened in 1915, three years before the Lexington Avenue Line platforms did.
The terminal's subway entrance in the 42nd Street Passage has stairs, escalators, and an elevator providing direct access to the fare control area for the Lexington Avenue and Flushing Lines. The shuttle platforms are directly connected to Grand Central Terminal's headhouse via the Shuttle Passage, a passageway from the Main Concourse to the shuttle platforms' mezzanine.
Three buildings serving essentially the same function have stood on the current Grand Central Terminal's site.
Grand Central Terminal arose from a need to build a central station for the Hudson River Railroad, the New York and Harlem Railroad, and the New York and New Haven Railroad in what is now Midtown Manhattan. The Harlem Railroad was the first of these railroads to operate, having been incorporated in 1831. The railroad had been extended to Harlem, in present-day upper Manhattan, by 1837. The first railroad structure of any kind on the modern-day site of Grand Central Terminal was a maintenance shed for the Harlem Railroad, built c. 1837 on the west side of Fourth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets.
Since the Harlem Railroad had the exclusive right to operate along the east side of Manhattan south of the Harlem River, it originally ran as a steam railroad on street level along Fourth (now Park) Avenue. After the passage of laws prohibiting steam trains in Lower Manhattan, the railroad's southern terminal was moved from 14th Street in Union Square to 26th Street near Madison Square, In 1857, the New Haven Railroad built a terminal adjacent to the Harlem Railroad's; their rail lines turned into a rail yard shared by both terminals, which was the beginning of the idea of a central terminal, shared by different rail companies. The building was later was converted into the first Madison Square Garden.
The New Haven Railroad was chartered in 1849 and had trackage rights to operate on the Harlem Railroad's tracks from Wakefield, Bronx, to Manhattan. The Hudson River Railroad did not have any trackage rights with the Harlem Railroad, so it used the West Side Line along western Manhattan, terminating at Tenth Avenue and 30th Street in what is now Hudson Yards. When the city banned steam trains below 42nd Street c. 1857–1858, the Harlem and New Haven Railroads' southern terminal was moved there. The Hudson River Railroad, meanwhile, was limited to the west side of Manhattan, away from the development that was concentrated on the east side.
The business magnate "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, who operated steamboats along the Hudson River, started buying the Harlem Railroad's stock in 1863. By the next year, he also controlled the Hudson River Railroad. Vanderbilt attempted to get permission to merge the railroads in 1864, but Daniel Drew, a one-time competitor in the steamboat industry, bribed state legislators to scuttle the proposal. Drew's efforts to short-sell Harlem and New York Central stock failed, and Vanderbilt made large profits after buying stock in both companies. Vanderbilt became the president of the Hudson River and New York Central Railroads in 1867, and merged them two years later. He then built a connecting line along the Harlem River's northern and eastern banks, running from the West Side Line in Spuyten Duyvil, Bronx, to the junction with the Harlem Railroad in Mott Haven, Bronx, as part of the Spuyten Duyvil and Port Morris Railroad.
Concurrently, the Harlem Railroad underwent large expansion in the area around the 42nd Street depot. By the mid-1860s, the Harlem Railroad owned 11 parcels bounded by 42nd and 48th Streets on either side of Fourth Avenue, between Lexington Avenue and Madison Avenue. The structures on these parcels included two locomotive sheds, a car house, and a stable and horseshoeing shop for the horses that pulled Harlem Railroad carriages from 42nd Street to Madison Square.
Vanderbilt developed a proposal to unite the three separate railroads at a single central station, replacing the separate and adjacent stations that created chaos in baggage transfer. The three lines would meet at Mott Haven, then run on the Harlem Railroad's tracks along Park Avenue in Manhattan to a new hub station at 42nd Street.
Grand Central Depot
Vanderbilt commissioned John B. Snook to design his new station, dubbed Grand Central Depot, on the site of the 42nd Street depot. The site was far outside the limits of the developed city at the time, and even Vanderbilt's backers warned against building the terminal in such an undeveloped area. Snook worked with engineers Isaac Buckhout and R.G. Buckfield to design the structure. Although Vanderbilt was inspired by French Classical architecture, Snook's final design was in the Second Empire style.
Construction started on September 1, 1869, and the depot was completed by October 1871. The project included the creation of Vanderbilt Avenue, a service road along the depot's western border. To reduce confusion, the railroads staggered their inaugural runs to the new station. The Harlem Railroad switched from its Madison Square depot on October 9, 1871; the New Haven Railroad arrived on October 16; and the Hudson River Railroad on November 1, eight days later than planned.
The terminal consisted of a three-story head house as well as a train shed to the north and east of the head house. The head house was an "L"-shaped structure with a short leg running east-west on 42nd Street and a long leg running north-south on Vanderbilt Avenue. It contained passenger service areas at ground level and railroad offices on the upper levels. The train shed was a generally cylindrical-shaped glass structure about 530 feet (160 m) long by 200 feet (61 m) wide, with a height of 100 feet (30 m) at the crown. It was built from 1869 to 1871 and was demolished in 1908. The train shed's roof was composed of thirty-two trusses that arched above the platforms. There were three waiting rooms, one for each of the three railroads, and a metal-and-glass screen with metal doors closed off the north end of the station. The structure measured 695 feet (212 m) along Vanderbilt Avenue and 530 feet (160 m) along 42nd Street. Grand Central Depot was the largest railroad station in the world at the time, as it contained 12 tracks and could accommodate 150 train cars at once. The storage yard stretched north to 58th Street. Because of the complexity of the switches in the yard, New York Central employed several shunting locomotives to shunt empty passenger cars to and from the storage sidings.
Grand Central Depot contained three innovative features of note: "high-level" platforms, level with train cars' floors; a balloon roof for the train shed, enabling a clear span over the tracks; and inspectors who allowed only ticketed passengers on the platforms. Its design was similar to that of other major railroad stations, such as St Pancras station in London and Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon in Paris. In particular, Snook took inspiration for the train shed's roof from St Pancras and London's Crystal Palace, as well as from the Louvre museum in Paris.
But the tracks laid to the new terminal proved problematic. Accidents began immediately at the grade crossings along Fourth Avenue from 42nd and 59th Streets; seven people died within 12 days of the Hudson River Railroad's move to Grand Central. The following year, Vanderbilt proposed the Fourth Avenue Improvement Project. The tracks between 48th and 56th Streets were to be moved into a shallow open cut, while the segment between 56th and 97th Streets, which was in a rock cut, would be covered over.[N 4] The improvements were completed in 1874, allowing trains approaching Grand Central Depot from the north to descend into the Park Avenue Tunnel at 96th Street and continue underground into the new depot. As part of the project, Fourth Avenue was transformed into a boulevard with a median strip that covered the railroad's ventilation grates, and renamed Park Avenue. Eight footbridges crossed the tracks between 45th and 56th Streets; vehicles crossed on overpasses at 45th and 48th Streets.
Traffic at Grand Central Depot grew quickly, filling its 12 tracks to capacity by the mid-1890s, not the late 1890s or early 1900s as expected. In 1885, a seven-track annex with five platforms was added to the east side of the existing terminal. Designed in the same style as the original station, with a 90-foot-high (27 m) mansard roof, it handled passengers disembarking to New York City, while the original building handled outbound traffic. If the annex had been a standalone station, it would have been the country's fourth-largest at the time, the New York Sun wrote just before it opened. The project included the construction of Depew Place, a marginal road on the east side of the annex named for longtime Vanderbilt lawyer Chauncey Depew and meant to complement Vanderbilt Avenue on the station's west side. The train yards were also expanded, and various maintenance sheds were moved to Mott Haven.
Grand Central Station
Grand Central Depot reached its capacity again by 1897, when it saw 11.5 million passengers a year. To accommodate the crowds, the railroads expanded the head house from three to six stories, enlarged the concourse at a cost of $2.5 million to connect the three railroads' separate waiting rooms, and increased the combined areas of the waiting rooms from 12,000 to 28,000 square feet (1,100 to 2,600 m2). Foyers were added to the west, south, and east sides of the station; women's waiting rooms, smoking rooms, and restrooms were also added. The tracks that previously continued south of 42nd Street were removed. The train yard was reconfigured and a pneumatic switch system was added in an effort to reduce congestion and turn-around time for trains. Finally, the renovation added a new facade in the Neo-Renaissance style, based on plans by railroad architect Bradford Gilbert.
The reconstructed building was renamed Grand Central Station. The new waiting room opened in October 1900. By this time, Grand Central had lost its impression of grandeur, and there was much criticism of the station's cleanliness. In 1899, The New York Times published an editorial that began, "Nothing except the New York City government has been so discreditable to it as its principal railroad station […] at 42nd Street." The architect Samuel Huckel Jr. was commissioned to make further modifications to the terminal's interior. A nearby post office was also proposed to ease mail handling.
Park Avenue Tunnel crash and aftermath
As train traffic increased in the late 1890s and early 1900s, so did the problems of smoke and soot produced by steam locomotives in the Park Avenue Tunnel, the only approach to the station. In 1899, William J. Wilgus, the New York Central's chief engineer, proposed electrifying the lines leading to the station, using a third rail power system devised by Frank J. Sprague. Railroad executives approved the plan, but shelved it as too expensive.
On January 8, 1902, a southbound train overran signals in the smoky Park Avenue Tunnel and collided with another southbound train, killing 15 people and injuring more than 30 others. A week later, New York Central president William H. Newman announced that all of the railroad's suburban lines to Grand Central would be electrified, and the approach to the station would be put underground. The New York state legislature subsequently passed a law to ban all steam trains in Manhattan beginning on July 1, 1908. By December 1902, as part of an agreement with the city, New York Central agreed to put the approach to Grand Central Station from 46th to 59th Streets in an open cut under Park Avenue, and to upgrade the tracks to accommodate electric trains. Overpasses would be built across the open cut at most of the cross-streets.
All this prompted Wilgus—by now the vice president of New York Central—to write a fateful letter to Newman. Dated December 22, 1902, it argued that the Park Avenue open cut should be electrified because electric trains were cleaner, faster, and cheaper to repair. Electrification would also remove the issue of smoke and soot exhaust; as such, the open cut could be covered over, and the railroad would benefit from enabling new real estate to be built along sixteen blocks of Park Avenue. The tunnel had to be approved soon because the New York City Rapid Transit Commission was planning to give the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) the right to construct an underground subway route around Grand Central Station, which would preempt New York Central's rights to build underground. Wilgus' letter also proposed replacing the two-year-old station with a new two-level electric train terminal, which would allow a larger yard to be built. The terminal would include balloon loops to allow trains to turn around without changing direction. To offset the costs of construction and of acquiring the expensive new land that would be required—Grand Central proper only covered three blocks—he proposed to superimpose over the terminal a 12-story, 2,300,000-square-foot (210,000 m2) building whose rents would bring in gross annual income of either $1.35 million or $2.3 million.
In March 1903, Wilgus presented a more detailed proposal to the New York Central board, describing a terminal with separate levels for commuter and intercity railroads; a main concourse with ramps to the lower concourse and the IRT subway; an expansive waiting room; a hotel on Madison Avenue; and a viaduct surrounding the 12-story building above the station building. New York Central also planned to eliminate railroad crossings in the Bronx, as well as straighten out and add tracks to the railroad lines leading to Grand Central, as part of the Grand Central improvement. The railroad's board of directors approved the $35 million project in June 1903; ultimately, almost all of Wilgus's proposal would be implemented.
The entire building was to be torn down in phases and replaced by the current Grand Central Terminal. It was to be the biggest terminal in the world, both in the size of the building and in the number of tracks. The Grand Central Terminal project was divided into eight phases, though the construction of the terminal itself comprised only two of these phases.[N 5]
The current building was intended to compete with the now-destroyed Pennsylvania Station, a majestic electric-train hub being built on Manhattan's west side for arch-rival Pennsylvania Railroad by McKim, Mead & White. Wilgus wanted the new Grand Central Terminal's architecture to match the grand design of Penn Station. In 1903, New York Central set up a design competition to decide the firms who would design the new terminal. It sent invitations to four well-known firms or architects: Daniel H. Burnham; McKim, Mead & White; Reed and Stem; and Samuel Huckel Jr. All four proposed the construction of a tower above Grand Central Terminal's station building, though Huckel did not seem to have participated significantly in the competition. McKim, Mead & White suggested a 60- to 65-story tower with an 18-story base, and space underneath for Park Avenue and 43rd Street to run through the building. Copies of Burnham's proposal no longer exist, but it followed the lines of the City Beautiful movement.
The railroad ultimately chose the design offered by Reed and Stem, experienced railway-station designers who proposed vehicular viaducts around the terminal and ramps between its two passenger levels. The design also incorporated air rights above the tracks, as had Wilgus's original proposal. Nepotism may have played a role in the selection—one partner, Charles A. Reed, was Wilgus's brother-in-law—but it definitely accounted for the decision to hire Warren and Wetmore as co-designers: Cornelius Vanderbilt's grandson William insisted upon employing the firm co-founded by his cousin Whitney Warren.
The two firms entered an agreement to act as the associated architects of Grand Central Terminal in February 1904. Reed and Stem were responsible for the overall design of the station, while Warren and Wetmore worked on designing the station's Beaux-Arts exterior. Charles Reed was appointed the chief executive for the collaboration between the two firms, and he promptly appointed Alfred T. Fellheimer as head of the combined design team. New York Central submitted its final proposal for the terminal to the New York City Board of Estimate later that year. The proposed station was massive, containing two track levels, a large main concourse, a post office, several entrances, and a construction footprint spanning nineteen blocks.
The team, called Associated Architects of Grand Central Terminal, had a tense relationship due to constant design disputes. In particular, Warren and Wetmore removed the 12-story tower and vehicular viaducts that had been part of Reed and Stem's plan, though Wilgus objected to the removals. Other design objections came from the New Haven Railroad, which had to share a third of the improvement's cost with New York Central. The New Haven also opposed the removal of the office tower from the plans because it would deprive the railroad of revenue, and because Wilgus's and Reed and Stem's simple design for Grand Central Terminal was cheaper that Warren's elaborate design. The New Haven refused to approve the final design until December 1909, when the two railroads and agreed to include foundations to support a future building above Grand Central Terminal. The elevated viaducts were also restored, as were several of Reed and Stem's other design elements, but Warren's elaborate headhouse design was retained. Reed died in 1911, and the day after the funeral, Wetmore met in secret with New York Central. The railroad then entered a contract solely with Warren and Whitmore, who took full credit for the station's design. Reed and Stem subsequently sued Warren and Whitmore, who was ordered to pay restitution after a protracted legal battle.
Construction on Grand Central Terminal started on June 19, 1903. A contract for depressing the tracks on Park Avenue south of 57th Street, as well as for excavating the storage yards, was awarded to the O'Rourke Construction Company in August 1903. The following year, New York Central bought two additional blocks of land east of the future terminal, bounded by Lexington Avenue, Depew Place, and 43rd and 45th Streets. This land acquisition included the Grand Central Palace Hotel, an exhibition hall.
Wilgus, tapped to lead the project, started to figure out ways to build the new terminal efficiently. His solution was to demolish, excavate, and built the terminal in sections, to prevent railroad service from being interrupted during construction. Some operations were temporarily shifted to the Grand Central Palace. The section-by-section building process doubled the cost of construction; at first the project was supposed to cost $40.7 million, but the cost jumped to $59.9 million in 1904 and to $71.8 million in 1906. The total cost of improvements, including electrification and the development of Park Avenue, was estimated at $180 million in 1910. Of that, the construction of Grand Central Terminal alone was expected to cost $100 million.
The construction project was enormous. About 3,200,000 cubic yards (2,400,000 m3) of the ground were excavated at depths of up to 10 floors, with 1,000 cubic yards (760 m3) of debris being removed from the site daily. Over 10,000 workers were assigned to put 118,597 short tons (107,589 t) of steel and 33 miles (53 km) of track inside the final structure. The excavation was too massive for horse-drawn wagons to cart away, as wagons at the time could only carry 3 or 4 cubic yards (2.3 or 3.1 m3) of material, so a 0.5-mile-long (0.80 km), 6-foot-wide (1.8 m) drainage tube was sunk 65 feet (20 m) under the ground to the East River. O'Rourke also carried waste away by train, using hopper cars to transport rock and earth to a landfill in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, via the Hudson Division. Excavations were only performed if there were available tracks to accommodate the work trains. Although construction continued 24/7, workers often halted every few minutes to allow trains to pass, and a smaller crew worked during the day than in the night. In addition, since Grand Central Station saw 800 trains per day, rock-blasting for excavation could only be performed at night, and only one track at a time could be taken out of service. Despite the scale of the project, no pedestrians were hurt during construction.
During the first section of construction, over 200 buildings had to be demolished, displacing hundreds of people from their homes. These buildings were located on a 17-acre (6.9 ha) plot of land bounded by Madison and Lexington Avenues between 50th and 45th Streets. The project was to contain three phases or "bites" in total, moving from east to west. As originally planned, the first new bite was supposed to be completed in December 1905, and the last bites would be completed two or three years afterward. However, O'Rourke soon fell behind schedule, and soon it was unable to excavate the first bite before the deadline of July 1, 1906. The construction company blamed New York Central for not making tracks available, thereby preventing its trains from hauling out debris, but was loath to hire more workers because it would cost more money. As a result, construction progress slowed down considerably. Then, in May 1907, O'Rourke and New York Central terminated their contract with each other. The first bite, which covered the area along Lexington Avenue, was described as being largely complete the same year.
Ongoing construction, completion, and opening
The New York Central Railroad tested third-rail-powered electric trains in 1904, using a fleet of new MU Sprague-GE cars from the General Electric Company, and found that their speeds were adequate for service into Grand Central. Over the next few years, the New York Central and New Haven Railroads electrified their tracks, allowing trains to enter Grand Central Terminal upon its completion. The first electric train departed for the soon-to-be-demolished Grand Central Station, from the Harlem Division's Highbridge station in the Bronx, on September 30, 1906. By late 1906, Harlem Division trains were also electrified, and its operations moved to the basement of Grand Central Palace. New Haven Division electric trains started running to Grand Central in October 1907. Though the segments of the lines into Grand Central were electrified by 1907, full electrification on the remaining parts of these lines was not completed until 1913. Subsequently, as Grand Central Terminal was being completed, all three commuter rail lines moved their operations to Grand Central Palace.
Work on the yard progressed slowly, due to the small size of each individual bite, as well as the engineering difficulty of designing two levels with separate track layouts, and the need to provide ultra-strong columns to support the upper level. The upper level was not covered over until 1910. The second and third bites were harder to construct than the first bite, as these were located over the most active sections of track on the west and center sides of Grand Central.
The first and second bites had been completed by 1910. The last train left Grand Central Station at midnight on June 5, 1910, and workers promptly began demolishing the old station. A large scaffold, as high and wide as the trusses of the train shed, was erected at the rear of the shed. The scaffold was built on rollers, and as each section was demolished, the scaffold was moved to the next section. Fifty-five blueprints for the new terminal's station building were filed with the New York City Department of Buildings in January 1911. At the time, the blueprints for Grand Central Terminal were spread out among 55 architects' drawings, marking one of the most comprehensive sets of plans that had ever been submitted to the department. The last remaining tracks from the former Grand Central Station were decommissioned on June 21, 1912.
On December 20, 1910, a gas explosion at an electrical substation near Grand Central killed 10 people and injured 117 more. It was later discovered that a motorman had accidentally broken a gas storage tank, causing a leak. A jury later declined to find the motorman guilty of wrongdoing.
On February 2, 1913, the new terminal was opened, with passengers boarding the first train at one minute past midnight. Within 16 hours of opening, there were an estimated 150,000 visitors.
Proposals for demolition and towers
In 1947, over 65 million people traveled through Grand Central, an all-time high. However, railroad traffic soon declined with competition from highways and intercity airline traffic.
Grand Central was designed to support a tower built above it. In 1954, William Zeckendorf proposed replacing Grand Central with an 80-story, 4,800,000-square-foot (450,000 m2) tower, 500 feet (150 m) taller than the Empire State Building. I. M. Pei created a pinched-cylinder design that took the form of a glass cylinder with a wasp waist. The plan was abandoned. In 1955, Erwin S. Wolfson made his first proposal for a tower north of the Terminal replacing the Terminal's six-story office building. A revised Wolfson plan was approved in 1958 and the Pan Am Building (now the MetLife Building) was completed in 1963 even though that section of the superstructure was not designed to support a tower above it.
Although the Pan Am Building's completion averted the terminal's imminent destruction, New York Central continued its precipitous decline. In 1968, facing bankruptcy, it merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad to form the Penn Central Railroad. The Pennsylvania Railroad was in its own precipitous decline, and in 1964, despite efforts to save the ornate Penn Station from destruction, the station was demolished and completely rebuilt to make way for an office building and the new Madison Square Garden. In 1968, Penn Central unveiled plans to build over Grand Central a tower even bigger than the Pan Am Building. The Marcel Breuer design would have used the existing building's tower support structure but would have destroyed the facade and the Main Waiting Room. The plans drew huge opposition, most prominently from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who stated:
Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters. Maybe... this is the time to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won't all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes.— Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Six months before the Breuer plans were unveiled, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Grand Central a city landmark. Penn Central was unable to secure permission from the Commission to execute either of Breuer's two blueprints. The railroad sued the city, alleging a taking. In the resulting case, Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City (1978), the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of the city, holding that New York City's Landmarks Preservation Act did not constitute a "taking" of Penn Central's property under the Fifth Amendment.
Penn Central went into bankruptcy in 1970 in what was then the biggest corporate bankruptcy in American history. Most of its railroad operations were taken over by Conrail in 1976, but Penn Central retained title to Grand Central Terminal. When Penn Central reorganized as American Premier Underwriters (APU) in 1994, it retained ownership of Penn Central. In turn, APU was absorbed by American Financial Group.
Restorations and expansion
Grand Central and the surrounding neighborhood became dilapidated during the financial collapse of its host railroads and the near bankruptcy of New York City itself. The interior of Grand Central was dominated by huge billboard advertisements. The most famous was the giant Kodak Colorama photos that ran along the entire east side, installed in the 1950s, and the Westclox "Big Ben" clock over the south concourse.
In 1975, Donald Trump bought the Commodore Hotel to the east of the terminal for $10 million and then worked out a deal with Jay Pritzker to transform it into one of the first Grand Hyatt hotels. Trump negotiated various tax breaks and, in the process, agreed to renovate the exterior of the terminal. The complementary masonry from the Commodore was covered with a mirror-glass "slipcover" facade; the masonry still exists underneath. In the same deal, Trump optioned Penn Central's rail yards on the Hudson River between 59th and 72nd Streets that eventually became Trump Place, the biggest private development in New York City. The Grand Hyatt opened in 1980 and the neighborhood immediately began a transformation. Trump would sell his half-share in the hotel for $142 million in 1996.
In order to improve passenger flow, a new passageway at Grand Central was opened in May 1975.
On September 11, 1976, a group of Croatian nationalists planted a bomb in a coin locker at Grand Central Terminal. The group also hijacked a plane. After stating their political demands, they revealed the location and provided the instructions for disarming the Grand Central Terminal bomb. The disarming operation was not executed properly and the resulting explosion wounded over 30 and killed one NYPD bomb squad specialist.
Metro-North operation and 1990s restoration
Amtrak announced in 1988 that it would stop serving the station due to the construction of the Empire Connection on Manhattan's West Side, which would allow trains using the Empire Corridor from Albany, Toronto, and Montreal to use Penn Station. At the time, all Amtrak services using the Northeast Corridor had been consolidated at Penn Station, and Amtrak passengers who wanted to transfer between Empire and Northeast Corridor services had to use trains, buses, or taxicabs. In addition, Amtrak had to pay Metro-North's operator, the MTA, to use the tracks leading to Grand Central. The final Amtrak train stopped at Grand Central on April 7, 1991, upon the completion of the Empire Connection. Since then, Grand Central has almost exclusively served Metro-North Railroad, except for limited Empire Service Amtrak trains in summer 2017, as well as all Empire Service, Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express, and Adirondack trains in summer 2018.
In 1988, the MTA commissioned a study of the Grand Central Terminal. The report found that parts of the terminal could be turned into a retail area, and the balconies could be used for "high-quality" restaurants. This would increase the terminal's annual retail and advertising revenue from $8 million to $17 million. At the time, more than 80 million subway and Metro-North passengers used Grand Central Terminal every year, but eight of 73 storefronts were empty, and almost three-quarters of leases were set to expire by 1990. The MTA signed a 280-year lease in 1994. The following January, the agency announced an $113.8 million renovation of the terminal, the most extensive rehabilitation in its history. Some $30 million was to come from Metro-North's capital allocation, the other $84 million through the sale of bonds. The MTA expected to complete the renovation in 1998, and that the retail space would net $13 million in annual revenue in 1999, which would increase to $17.5 million in 2009. By 1998, the cost had risen to $196 million.
The New York Times lauded the restoration effort, though it was critical of the MTA's plans to turn the terminal into a mall of shops and restaurants, distracting visitors from the terminal's grandeur, and making it a large commercial enterprise. The MTA had nearly doubled the terminal's retail space, from 105,000 square feet to 170,000.
During this renovation, all billboards were removed and the station was restored. The most striking effect was the restoration of the Main Concourse ceiling, revealing the painted skyscape and constellations. Other modifications included a complete overhaul of the superstructure and a replacement of the departures board that was designed to fit into the architecture of the Terminal aesthetically.
The renovations included the construction of the East Stairs, a curved monumental staircase on the east side of the station building that matched the West Stairs. The stairs were proposed in 1994, and were built on the site of the original baggage room, which had since been converted into retail space. Although the baggage room had been designed by the original architects, the restoration architects found evidence that a set of stairs mirroring those to the West was originally intended for that space. The original quarry in Tennessee was reopened to provide stone for the new staircase and to replace damaged stone elsewhere. Each piece of new stone was labeled with its installation date and the fact that it was not a part of the original Terminal building.
The exterior was again cleaned and restored, starting with the west facade on Vanderbilt Avenue and gradually working counterclockwise. The project involved cleaning the facade, rooftop light courts, and statues; filling in cracks, repointing stones on the facade, restoring the copper roof and the building's cornice, repairing the large windows of the Main Concourse, and removing the remaining blackout paint applied to the windows during World War II. A 1.5-short-ton (1.3-long-ton) cast-iron eagle from the facade of the former Grand Central Depot, which had ended up at a house in Bronxville, New York, was donated back to Grand Central Terminal and installed above a new entrance on Lexington Avenue. The result of the restoration was a cleaner, more attractive, and structurally sound exterior, and the windows now allow much more light into the Main Concourse.
An official re-dedication ceremony was held on October 1, 1998, marking the completion of the interior renovations. Some of the minor refits, such as the replacement of the train information displays at the entrances to each platform, were not completed until 2000.
On February 1, 2013, numerous displays, performances, and events were held to celebrate the terminal's centennial. Grand Central also became a sister station with Tokyo Station in Japan, in a similar agreement to those of sister cities. The agreement commemorated the two stations' centennials and recognized both as historic landmarks with important social and economic roles. Later in the year, Grand Central became a sister station of the Hsinchu railway station in Taiwan, a Baroque-inspired building that also opened in 1913.
In 2014, the One Vanderbilt supertall skyscraper was proposed for a site to the west of Grand Central Terminal, across Vanderbilt Avenue. Demolition of buildings on the site began in 2015. The official groundbreaking was in October 2016 and the building is expected to be completed in 2020. It will have an underground connection to Grand Central Terminal.
In December 2017, the MTA awarded contracts to replace the display boards and public announcement systems and add security cameras at Grand Central Terminal and 20 other Metro-North stations in New York state. The next-train departure time screens will be replaced with LED signs.
As part of the 2020–2024 MTA Capital Program, the Grand Central Terminal train shed's concrete and steel will be repaired. The work will tear up portions of Park Avenue and adjacent side streets for several years.
Long Island Rail Road access
The East Side Access project, underway since 2007, is slated to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into the terminal starting in 2022. LIRR trains will reach Grand Central from Harold Interlocking in Sunnyside, Queens, via the existing 63rd Street Tunnel and new tunnels under construction on both the Manhattan and Queens sides. LIRR trains will arrive and depart from a bi-level, eight-track tunnel with four platforms that will sit more than 140 feet (43 m) below Park Avenue and more than 90 feet (27 m) below the Metro-North tracks. Reaching the street from the lowest new level, more than 175 feet (53 m) deep, will take about 10 minutes.
A new 350,000-square-foot retail and dining concourse will initially be accessed via stairwells, 22 elevators, and 47 escalators connecting to Grand Central's existing food court (by comparison, the entire LIRR system currently has 19 escalators). The MTA plans to build and open more entrances at 45th, 46th, and 48th streets.
The East Side Access project was spurred by a study that showed that more than half of LIRR riders work closer to Grand Central than to the current terminus at Penn Station. Cost estimates jumped from $4.4 billion in 2004, to $6.4 billion in 2006, then to $11.1 billion. The new stations and tunnels are to begin service in December 2022.
Proposed purchase by the MTA
Midtown TDR Ventures, LLC, an investment group controlled by Argent Ventures, purchased the station from American Financial in December 2006. As part of the transaction the lease with the MTA was renegotiated through February 28, 2274. The MTA paid $2.24 million annually in rent and has an option to buy the station and tracks in 2017, although Argent could extend the date another 15 years to 2032.
In November 2018, the MTA proposed purchasing the Hudson and Harlem Lines as well as the Grand Central Terminal for up to $35.065 million, plus a discount rate of 6.25%. The purchase would include all inventory, operations, improvements, and maintenance associated with each asset, except for the transferable air rights over Grand Central. At the time, the Hudson and Harlem Lines were owned by a holding company that had taken possession of Penn Central's assets upon its bankruptcy, while Grand Central Terminal was owned by Midtown TDR Ventures. Under the terms of the leases for each asset, the MTA would only be able to exercise an option to purchase the three assets before October 2019. The MTA wanted to purchase the assets in order to avoid future double-payments on its existing leases for these assets. If the option were exercised, the closing of the sale was not proposed to occur until at least April 2020. The MTA's finance committee approved the proposed purchase on November 13, 2018, and the full board approved the proposal two days later.
Grand Central Terminal offered several innovations in transit-hub design. One was the use of ramps, rather than staircases, to conduct passengers and luggage through the facility. Two ramps connected the lower-level suburban concourse to the main concourse; several more led from the main concourse to entrances on 42nd Street. These ramps allowed all types of travelers to easily move between Grand Central's two underground levels. The separation of commuter and intercity trains, as well as incoming and outgoing trains, ensured that most passengers on a given ramp would be traveling in the same direction.
Another innovation was the Park Avenue Viaduct, which rerouted Park Avenue around the station building between 40th and 46th Streets, creating a second level for picking up and dropping off passengers. This allowed Park Avenue traffic to flow around the building and over 42nd Street without encumbering nearby streets. The western (now southbound) leg of the viaduct was completed in 1919, but congestion developed soon after the viaduct's opening, so an eastern leg for northbound traffic was added in 1928. The station building was also designed to accommodate reconnecting both segments of 43rd Street by going through the concourse, if the City of New York had demanded it.
Designers of the new terminal tried to make it as comfortable as possible. Amenities included an oak-floored waiting room for women, attended to by maids; a shoeshine room, also for women; a room with telephones; a beauty salon with gender-separated portions; a dressing room, with maids available for a fee; and a men's barbershop for men, containing a public portion with barbers from many cultures, as well as a rentable private portion. Initially, Grand Central was to have had two concourses, one on each level. The "outbound" concourse would have a 15,000-person capacity while the "inbound" concourse would have an 8,000-person capacity. A waiting room adjoining each concourse could fit another 5,000 people. Brochures advertised the new Grand Central Terminal as a tourist-friendly space where "[t]imid travelers may ask questions with no fear of being rebuffed by hurrying trainmen, or imposed upon by hotel runners, chauffeurs or others in blue uniforms"; a safe and welcoming place for people of all cultures, where "special accommodations are to be provided for immigrants and gangs of laborers"; and a general tourist attraction "where one delights to loiter, admiring its beauty and symmetrical lines—a poem in stone".
Every train at Grand Central Terminal departs one minute later than its posted departure time. The extra minute is intended to encourage passengers rushing to catch trains at the last minute to slow down. According to The Atlantic, Grand Central Terminal has the lowest rate of slips, trips, and falls on its marble floors, compared to all other stations in the U.S. with similar flooring.
As constructed, the upper level was for intercity trains, and the lower level for commuter trains. This allowed commuter and intercity passengers to board and alight from trains without interfering with each others. New track infrastructure allowed maximum train speeds of 52 miles per hour (84 km/h), as well as a massive four-floor, 760-lever signal tower to control the suburban trains. There were 400 levers for the upper level and 360 levers for the lower level.
Balloon loops surrounding the station obviated complicated switching moves to bring back the trains to the coach yards for servicing. At the time, passenger cars did not run on their own power, instead being pulled by locomotives, and it was seen as dangerous to perform locomotive shunting moves underground. Therefore, trains being stored in Grand Central's rail yard would drop passengers off at one side of the station, use the turning loops, and pick up passengers on the other side. Theoretically, the terminal could handle 200 trains per hour, but in practice, far fewer trains used the station. The tracks required a large radius; they extended under Vanderbilt Avenue to the west and Lexington Avenue to the east.
The footprint of Grand Central Terminal's rail yard was much larger than Penn Station's. The former had 70-acre (28 ha) rail yards as opposed to the latter's 28-acre (11 ha) rail yards. Grand Central Terminal's yard could hold 1,149 cars, compared to 366 in its predecessor station. Grand Central had 46 tracks and 30 platforms, more than twice Penn Station's 21 tracks and 11 platforms.
Burying electric trains underground brought an additional advantage to the railroads: the ability to sell above-ground air rights over the tracks and platforms for real-estate development. The result of this was the creation of several blocks worth of prime real estate in Manhattan, which was then developed into an area dubbed "Terminal City" or the "Grand Central Zone". Terminal City soon became the most desirable commercial office district in Manhattan. Stretching from 42nd to 51st Streets between Madison and Lexington Avenues, it came to include the Chrysler Building and other prestigious office buildings; luxury apartment houses along Park Avenue; an array of high-end hotels that included the Commodore, Biltmore, Roosevelt, Marguery, Chatham, Barclay, Park Lane, and Waldorf Astoria; the Grand Central Palace; and the Yale Club of New York City.
The Graybar Building, completed in 1927, was one of the last projects of Terminal City. The building incorporates many of Grand Central's train platforms, as well as the Graybar Passage, a hallway with vendors and train gates stretching from the terminal to Lexington Avenue. In 1929, New York Central built its headquarters in a 34-story building (now called the Helmsley Building), straddling Park Avenue north of the terminal. Terminal City was gradually razed or reconstructed after World War II, though some residential buildings from the era still exist along Lexington Avenue.
Art and music at Grand Central
Grand Central Art Galleries
From 1922 to 1958, Grand Central Terminal was the home of the Grand Central Art Galleries, which were established by John Singer Sargent, Edmund Greacen, Walter Leighton Clark, and others. The founders had sought a location in Manhattan that was central and easily accessible, and Alfred Holland Smith, president of New York Central, offered space on the terminal's upper floors. A 10-year lease was signed, and the galleries, together with the railroad company, spent more than $100,000 to prepare the space. The architect was William Adams Delano, best known for designing Yale Divinity School's Sterling Quadrangle.
At their opening, the galleries extended over most of the terminal's sixth floor, 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2), and offered eight main exhibition rooms, a foyer gallery, and a reception area. A total of 20 display rooms were planned for what was intended as "...the largest sales gallery of art in the world". The official opening on March 22, 1923, was attended by 5,000 people. It featured paintings by Sargent, Charles W. Hawthorne, Cecilia Beaux, Wayman Adams, and Ernest Ipsen, as well as sculptures from Daniel Chester French, Herbert Adams, Robert Aitken, Gutzon Borglum, and Frederic MacMonnies.
A year after they opened, the galleries established the Grand Central School of Art, which occupied 7,000 square feet (650 m2) on the seventh floor of the east wing of the terminal. The school was directed by Sargent and French. Its first-year teachers included painters Jonas Lie and Nicolai Fechin, sculptor Chester Beach, illustrator Dean Cornwell, costume designer Helen Dryden, and muralist Ezra Winter. The Grand Central School of Art remained in the east wing until 1944.
Beginning during the Christmas season of 1928 and continuing on certain holidays until 1958, an organist performed in Grand Central's North Gallery. The organist was Mary Lee Read, who initially performed on a borrowed Hammond organ. Grand Central management eventually bought an organ and a set of chimes for the station and began paying Read an annual retainer. In addition to the weeks before Christmas, Read played during the weeks before Thanksgiving and Easter and on Mother's Day. On one Easter, a choir composed of Works Progress Administration employees performed with her. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, she attempted to lift spirits by playing "The Star-Spangled Banner", which brought the main concourse to a standstill. The stationmaster subsequently asked her to avoid selections that would cause passengers to miss their trains, and Read became known as the only organist in New York who was forbidden to play the United States' national anthem. On September 7, 2018, Paul McCartney performed a secret live show at Grand Central Terminal on the premiere date of his new album Egypt Station.
In popular culture
Many film and television productions have included scenes shot at Grand Central Terminal. Kyle McCarthy, who handles production at Grand Central, said, "Grand Central is one of the quintessential New York places. Whether filmmakers need an establishing shot of arriving in New York or transportation scenes, the restored landmark building is visually appealing and authentic." Through its cinematic history, Grand Central was sometimes a backdrop for romantic reunions between couples, especially during World War II. After the terminal declined in the 1950s, it was used as more of a dark, dangerous place, with the concourse as a backdrop for chase scenes and shootouts, sometimes including homeless people or those with mental disorders throughout the concourse. The terminal has been used in thrillers, mysteries, fantasies and horror films, and has stood in as a metaphor for chaos and disorientation. Almost every film shot in the terminal's train shed was shot on Track 34, because it is one of few platforms there without columns.
The terminal's first cinematic appearance was in the 1930 musical film Puttin' On the Ritz. Some films from the 1940s, including Grand Central Murder and The Thin Man Goes Home used reconstructions of Grand Central, built in Hollywood, to stand in for the terminal. Additionally, the terminal was drawn and animated for use in the 2005 film Madagascar.
- Twentieth Century (1934)
- Spellbound (1945)
- The Band Wagon (1953)
- North by Northwest (1959)
- Seconds (1966)
- The Out-of-Towners (1970)
- Necrology (1971)
- Superman (1978)
- A Stranger Is Watching (1982)
- The House on Carroll Street (1988)
- The Fisher King (1991)
- Carlito's Way (1993)
- Men in Black (1997)
- Armageddon (1998)
- I Am Legend (2007)
- Revolutionary Road (2008)
- Arthur (2011)
- Friends with Benefits (2011)
- The Avengers (2012)
Due to its cinematic history, the terminal screened several of the aforementioned films on October 19, 2017, in a partnership between the MTA, Rooftop Films, and the Museum of the Moving Image. The event also featured a cinematic history lecture by architect and author James Sanders.
Commodore Vanderbilt by Ernst Plassmann
- Architecture of New York City
- Transportation in New York City
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- Grand Central Terminal meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, though it is not classified as a Full Access station; it does not comply with all requirements of the ADA.
- A railroad "terminal" such as Grand Central Terminal, the former Reading Terminal in Philadelphia, and the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal is a facility at the end of a rail line, which trains enter and depart in the same direction. A railroad station, such as Pennsylvania Station on the West Side, 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, and Union Station in Washington, D.C., is a facility along one or more contiguous rail lines, which trains can enter and depart in different directions.
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- electrification of the Harlem, Hudson, and New Haven divisions
- lowering the Port Morris Branch tracks in the Bronx
- building tunnels along the Hudson Division around the Harlem River Ship Canal in Marble Hill, Manhattan (ultimately never built, as the Harlem River Ship Canal was relocated)
- eliminating grade crossings
- adding tracks on the Harlem and New Haven divisions
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- Cite error: The named reference
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