Grand Central Terminal is a transportation hub and a world-famous historic landmark in New York City . It’s the largest train station in the world, with 44 platforms, 67 iron rails and two floors, located at the intersection of Park Avenue and 42nd Street. Opened in 1913 and renovated in 1998, it is one of the architectural gems of New York. Everything in this city is monumental so the station couldn’t be an exception .
After leaving our bags at the hotel, this was the first place we went when we arrived in New York. Like Alex 🦁, Marty 🦓, Melman 🦒 and Gloria 🦛, our adventure started at Grand Central Terminal. It was at this station that the protagonists of Madagascar came to take the metro when they escape the Central Park Zoo.
In 1871, Cornelius Vanderbilt, an American entrepreneur, bought all the city’s railways, including Grand Central Terminal (a smaller version of the current one). However, the current building of the station officially opened on February 2, 1913. The construction lasted ten years, cost eighty million dollars and was necessary to demolish 180 building between the 42nd and the 50th Street, including hospitals and churches. It was built in the Beaux-Arts style, by the architects Warren and Wetmore, who were inspired by the design of the Paris Opera House.
In the 1950s, the automobile industry boom and the creation of new residential areas caused the train to fall into disuse (many travellers preferred to drive or fly to their destinations). Because of these reasons, the Grand Central Terminal suffered a lot to remain open. To help save the station, in 1994, two firms were chosen by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to redevelop the station. The aim was to build commercial areas and sell the office building at the back of the station (currently is the MetLife building). During the 197 million dollar restoration process, were added some of the best known decor elements like the clocks and the chandeliers.
The station’s name has also suffered changes over the years and, nowadays, the official name is Grand Central Terminal but it’s also known as Grand Central, the Terminal, GCT, and Grand Central Station.
The main entrance of the Grand Central Station is located on the 42nd Street. Here you can find a small bridge, saying “Pershing Square Plaza – Grand Central Terminal” on the bottom, which gives access to the second floor of the station. In this area you have good views of the Chrysler Building (it is not difficult to understand what building is, because it stands out from the others).
GCT facade has a true Beaux-Arts design with large arches flanked by Corinthian columns and the Transportation sculpture on the top of the station building. This 15 meters high sculpture was designed by Jules-Alexis Coutan and has the largest Tiffany glass clock in the world. In addition, the sculpture depicts Mercury, Minerva and Hercules. It represents the wisdom of Minerva that was necessary for the planning of the monument, the speed of Mercury that symbolizes the speed of the trains and the strength of Hercules mirrors the construction workers of the building.
The height of the Main Hall of the GCT is equivalent to 12 floors , with shiny gold chandeliers, 22-meters windows, marble staircases on both sides and a luxurious marble floor so clean and shiny.
The ceiling of the Main Hall has 2500 stars painted in a blue sky (representing the Mediterranean Sea sky in the Winter). 59 of the 2500 starts are illuminated by LEDs and indicate de 12 main zodiac constellations. This beautiful work of art was made by the French artist Paul Helleu and was based on a medieval manuscript.
A total of 10 chandeliers are hanging in the Grand Central Terminal’s Main Hall. Each chandelier is decorated with gold and has 110 lamps bare and exposed.
Shortly after 9/11 attacks, an American flag was placed in the iconic Main Hall to focus solidarity and determination.
There are two prominent and apparently identical staircases in the Hall, modeled after the stairs of Garnier Opera house (in Paris) but only one is an original. The West Staircase was built in 1913 but the East Staircase was added decades later during major renovations.
The clock on the main information desk in the center of the station is very valuable (with a capital V!) and is estimated to cost between 10 and 20 million dollars. This clock, like all the others at the station, is a minute ahead so that all passengers have some leeway to get to the train in time. Designed by Hendy Edward Bedford, the four faces of the watch are opaque glass and, although the estimated value is very high, its structure is not gold but copper.
Whispering Gallery Room
Walking down the ramp to the station bottom floor you probably will see several people talking facing the wall (in front of the Oyster Bar Restaurant). This is the Whispering Gallery which, due to the architecture of its dome, allows the sound to be transported in a clear and clean way, even with the noise of people walking through the place, from one end of the arch to the other (almost 15 meters away!). If you want to try it, this “magic” happens in the arch that has the signage for “restrooms” in front of the Oyster restaurant.
Lost and Found Office
A funny curiosity is that in the GCT is located the main office of the Lost and Found of New York. It gathers a catalog of more than 50 thousand items lost every year (60% of them are returned to the owner). It’s the most successful Lost and Found office in the USA and receives in its majority, wallets, glasses, mobile phones and even some bizarre articles such as pet rabbits, prosthetic legs, wigs, saxophones,…
Stores and Restaurants
It’s even unfair to call the place just a train station because the Grand Central Terminal looks much more like a luxury mall with several shops, attractions and many other things to see and visit! It’s a shopping, dining and a cultural destination with 60 shops, 35 places to eat and a full calendar of cultural exhibits and other special events throughout the year. See here the map! The GCT is open daily from 5:30h to 2:00h but the individual stores and restaurants may differ.
There is even a tennis court open to the public for those who want to spend some time while waiting for the train (so crazy )! It cost $90.00 to $260.00 per hour, depending on the day of the week and hour.
My experience there
Being in New York is amazing and being in the places I used to see in movies is even more amazing! The Grand Central Terminal is monumental. The experience of being in the Main Hall and seeing all that excitement is so good.
The Grand Central Terminal is a must stop for anyone visiting New York and is about 10 minutes walk from Times Square. Best of all, it’s free! 💖