Grand Central Terminal (commonly referred to as Grand Central Station or simply as Grand Central) is a commuter, rapid transit and intercity railroad terminal.
Grand Central Terminal has intricate designs both on its inside and outside, lending to its landmark designations, including as a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
The terminal is one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions, with about 22 million visitors per year.
Grand Central is also one of the busiest train stations in the world, and serves nearly 200,000 New York City commuters every day.
It covers 19 hectares (48 acres) and has 44 platforms, more than any other railroad station in the world. Its platforms, all below ground, serve 43 tracks on the upper level and 27 on the lower; 67 tracks are currently in use for passenger service.
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.
Three buildings serving essentially the same function have stood on this site.
The first was Grand Central Depot, built by railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt and opened in 1871, which served as a hub for a number of railroad lines entering Manhattan. The complex, which stretched in an “L” shape along 42nd Street and what is now Vanderbilt Avenue included storage yards and a balloon shed where passengers boarded and departed trains.
The railroads quickly outgrew the Depot, and in 1899 it was demolished and replaced with a far larger building, six stories high, which was named Grand Central Station.
It wasn’t until 1903 that construction began on the current building, a project that took 10 years to complete at a cost of more than $2 billion in today’s dollars.
At midnight on February 2, 1913, the new terminal was opened with the departure of a Boston Express train; the first arrival occurred a minute later. Within sixteen hours, there were an estimated 150,000 visitors. The beautiful Beaux Arts building with its massive marble staircase, 75-foot windows (about 23 meters), and star-studded ceiling was an immediate hit.
In the 1960’s, this famous NYC landmark was nearly torn down, but with the help of first-lady Jacqueline Kennedy, it was designated as a historic American landmark.
Renovations at the Grand Central Terminal were completed in 1998, and once more in 2007, with this Beaux-Arts NYC landmark receiving an extensive cleaning of its ceiling.
Grand Central Terminal has both monumental spaces and meticulously crafted detail, especially on its facade.
Much of the Grand Central Terminal facade is decorated with famous New York City art statues and brilliant bronze and gold accents.
The 4-meter (13-foot) clock in front of the Grand Central façade facing 42nd Street 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 15-meter-high (48 feet) trio was considered the largest sculptural group in the world.
The Main Concourse is the center of Grand Central. At 84 meters (275 feet) long by 37 meters (120 feet) wide by 38 meters (125 feet) high, the cavernous Main Concourse is usually filled with bustling crowds and is often used as a meeting place.
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 Main Concourse has an elaborately decorated astronomical ceiling, 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.
The ceiling also bears the scars of history. In the middle of the stars above the symbol of Pisces appears a small darkened circle. In 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. In order to reassure the American public, the Main Concourse became the location of a Redstone missile. It was so big that a hole had to be made in the ceiling to allow it to be comfortably housed. Historical preservation dictated that this hole remain (as opposed to being repaired) as a testament to the many uses of the Terminal over the years.
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. Among them is the Oyster Bar [photo below], the oldest business within Grand Central, whose decor includes vaults of Guastavino tile.
Vanderbilt Hall, named for the family that built and owned the station, serves as the entrance area from 42nd Street at Pershing Square. It sits next to the Main Concourse. Formerly the main waiting room for the terminal, it is now used for the annual Christmas Market and special exhibitions, and is rented for private events.
The Campbell Apartment is an elegantly restored cocktail lounge, just south of the 43rd Street/Vanderbilt Avenue entrance, that attracts a mix of commuters and tourists. It was at one time
the office of 1920s tycoon John W. Campbell and replicates the galleried hall of a 13th-century Florentine palace.
Grand Central Terminal now houses restaurants, cocktail lounges, and various fast food outlets as well as delis, bakeries, newsstands, a gourmet and fresh food market, an annex of the New York Transit Museum, and more than 40 retail stores.
In a February 2013 BBC News article, historian David Cannadine described it as one of the most
majestic buildings of the twentieth century.
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.”
Films featuring Grand Central include: Around the World in 80 Days, The Avengers, Avengers: Age of
Ultron, Before We Go, The Bone Collector, Carlito’s Way, Cloverfield, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Fisher King, Hackers, Hugo, I Am Legend, K-PAX, Men In Black, Midnight Run,North By Northwest, The Prince of Tides, Revolutionary Road, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Superman: The Movie, The Girl On The Train, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Unbreakable.