Grand Central Terminal

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Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal logo.png
Metro-North Railroad terminal
GCT in Blizzard of 2015.jpg
Main Concourse, 2015
Location89 East 42nd Street at Park Avenue,
New York, NY 10017
Coordinates40°45′10.127″N 73°58′37.974″W / 40.75281306°N 73.97721500°W / 40.75281306; -73.97721500Coordinates: 40°45′10.127″N 73°58′37.974″W / 40.75281306°N 73.97721500°W / 40.75281306; -73.97721500
Owned by

Operated by
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
11 sidings
ConnectionsMTA New York City Subway:
"4" train"5" train"6" train "6" express train"7" train "7" express train​​ 42nd Street Shuttle trains
at Grand Central–42nd Street
Bus transport NYCT Bus: M1, M2, M3, M4, M42, M101, M102, M103, Q32, X27, X28, X63, X64, X68
Bus transport MTA Bus: BxM1, QM21
Platform levels2
Disabled accessAccessible[N 1]
Other information
Station codeGCT, NYG[2]
Fare zone1
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata
Key dates
Opened February 2, 1913
Passengers (FY 2017)66,952,732 Annually, based on weekly estimate[3] (Metro-North)
Preceding station   MTA NYC logo.svg Metro-North Railroad   Following station
TerminusHarlem Line
toward Wassaic
Hudson Line
toward Poughkeepsie
New Haven Line
Former / future services
  Former services  
Preceding station   New York Central Railroad   Following station
toward Chicago
Main LineTerminus
toward Peekskill
Hudson Division
toward Chatham
Harlem Division
New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad
TerminusMain Line
toward New Haven
  Future services  
MTA NYC logo.svg LIRR
TerminusCity Terminal Zone
Under construction
toward Long Island
Grand Central Terminal
Grandcentral terminal ny.jpg
South elevation
Interactive map highlighting Grand Central Terminal
ArchitectReed and Stem;
Warren and Wetmore
Architectural styleBeaux-Arts
NRHP reference #75001206
83001726 (increase)
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJanuary 17, 1975
August 11, 1983 (increase)[6]
Designated NHLDecember 8, 1976[7]
Designated NYCLAugust 2, 1967[4]
Designated NYCLSeptember 23, 1980 (interior)[5]

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,[8] with 21.9 million visitors in 2013, excluding train and subway passengers.[9]

Grand Central Terminal was built by and named for the New York Central Railroad in the pinnacle of American long-distance passenger rail travel. The terminal also served the New York Central's successors as well as the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. From 1971 to 1991, the terminal also served Amtrak, 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 because of construction around Penn Station. 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, though only 43 tracks are currently in use for passenger service. The total number of tracks along platforms and in rail yards exceeds 100 as most previous tracks that are not in regular use are used for the rail yard. Unlike other Metro-North stations, Grand Central Terminal is not owned by Metro-North's operator, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), but by a private company known as Midtown TDR Ventures. However, in 2018, the MTA announced that it would buy Grand Central Terminal as well as the Hudson and Harlem Lines for a combined $35 million.


42nd Street exterior at night

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.[10][11][N 2] "Grand Central Station" is the name of the nearby U.S. Post Office station at 450 Lexington Avenue.[12] 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.


Floorplan of the main level of the terminal, 1939

The interior of Grand Central Terminal has restaurants, such as the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant and various fast food outlets surrounding the Dining Concourse on the level below the Main Concourse. There are also delis, bakeries, a gourmet and fresh food market, and an annex of the New York Transit Museum.[13][14] The 40-plus retail stores include newsstands and chain stores, including a Starbucks coffee shop, a Rite Aid pharmacy, and an Apple Store.[15][16]

Grand Central Terminal's 48-acre (19 ha) basements are among the largest in the city.[17] 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.[17][18][19] 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.[20] The Abwehr, a German espionage service, sent two spies to sabotage it; they were arrested by the FBI before they could strike.[17]

The terminal building primarily uses granite, so the building emits radiation.[21] People who work full-time in the station receive an average dose of 525 mrem/year, more than permitted in nuclear power facilities.[22][23]

Main Concourse[edit]

The Main Concourse information booth (left) and Dining Concourse information booth (right), which connect through a concealed spiral staircase
Grand Central Market

The Main Concourse is the center of Grand Central. At 275 ft (84 m) long by 120 ft (37 m) wide by 125 ft (38 m) high,[24][25][26]:74 (about 35,000 square feet total[27]) the cavernous Main Concourse is usually filled with bustling crowds and is often used as a meeting place.[28] The ticket booths are here, although many now stand unused or have been repurposed since the introduction of ticket vending machines.[28] 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.[28]

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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30]

The upper-level tracks are reached from the Main Concourse or from various hallways and passages branching off from it. On the east side of the Main Concourse is a cluster of food purveyor shops called Grand Central Market.

Display board[edit]

One of several Solari boards at Grand Central

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.[31] Dubbed a Solari board after its Italian manufacturer, it contained rows of flip panels that displayed train information, and became a New York institution, as its many displays would flap simultaneously to reflect changes in train schedules, an indicator of just how busy Grand Central was. A small example of this type of device hangs in the Museum of Modern Art as an example of outstanding industrial design.

The flap-board destination sign was replaced with high-resolution mosaic LCD modules[32] 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.[33]

Dining Concourse[edit]

The Dining Concourse, with track entrances visible on the left

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. The Oyster Bar, the oldest business within Grand Central, is adjacent to the concourse.

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.[34] 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.[29][25] An overpass to the main concourse passes over the archway; from 1927 until 1998, the sides of the bridge were enclosed by approximately Template:Covnert walls.[34]

The Dining Concourse used to be called the Suburban Concourse because it handled commuter rail trains, as opposed to the upper level, which handled intercity trains.[35] 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.[36] 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.[37]

Vanderbilt Hall and the Campbell[edit]

Vanderbilt Hall, c. 1910 and 2015

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 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.[38][39] 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.[40]

Vanderbilt Tennis Club and former studios[edit]

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.[41][42]

Playing tennis in the terminal's court

In 1966, the former studio space was converted to Vanderbilt Tennis Club, a sports club with two tennis courts.[43][41][42] 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.[44] 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.[45] 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.[41][42]

Platforms and tracks[edit]

Layout of the upper-level mainline tracks (top) and lower-level suburban tracks (bottom), showing balloon loops

The terminal has the most platforms in any railway station in the world, with 44 platform numbers spread across 28 physical platforms. Of these, 43 are part of island platforms and one is a side platform.[46][47] The tracks are numbered according to their location in the terminal building. Odd-numbered tracks are usually on the east side (right side facing north) of the platform; even-numbered tracks on the west. As of 2016, there are 67 tracks, including unused tracks and storage sidings. Of these, 43 tracks are in regular passenger use, serving Metro-North.[48]

The upper level has 42 tracks, including ten tracks used only for storage. The passenger tracks are numbered 11 to 42 east to west. A balloon loop track encircles 40 of these tracks.[49] Tracks 22 and 31 were removed in the late 1990s to build concourses for Grand Central North. Track 12 was removed to expand the platform between tracks 11 and 13 and track 14 is only used for loading garbage trains.

The lower level has 27 tracks numbered 100 to 126, east to west, circled by a balloon loop that leads to the upper level.[50] Of these, two were originally intended for mail trains and two were for baggage handling.[35] 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 are being 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.[51]

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 double-decked caverns 100-foot-deep (30 m) underneath the ground.[52] 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 in a center level between the LIRR's two track levels.[53][54]

Underneath the Waldorf-Astoria (and connected to Grand Central via the tracks) is a private platform, Track 61. Part of the original design of the Waldorf Astoria,[20][55] 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.[56] United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt would travel into the city using his personal train, pull into Track 61, and take a specially designed elevator to the surface.[57] It has been used occasionally since Roosevelt's death.[58][59]

Subway station[edit]

Passageway to the subway, 1912; the ramp at right leads to street level

The subway platforms at Grand Central are reached from the Main Concourse. The subway platforms, originally built by the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), consists of platforms for three lines, now operated by the MTA as part of the New York City Subway.

The IRT 42nd Street Shuttle platforms were originally an express stop on the original IRT subway, opened in 1904.[60] When the IRT Lexington Avenue Line was extended uptown in 1918, the original tracks were converted to shuttle use.[61] One track remains connected to the downtown Lexington Avenue local track but the connection is not in revenue service.[62] A fire in the 1960s destroyed much of the shuttle station, and it was later rebuilt.[63] There are also two other platform levels. 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.[64] The platforms are sometimes called the "diagonal station" because they are oriented 45° from the rest of the Manhattan street grid.[65] The IRT Flushing Line platform is deeper than the IRT 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.[66]

At the Park Avenue/42nd Street entrance to Grand Central Terminal, near the eastern side of the headhouse, there are stairs, escalators, and an elevator providing direct access to the fare control area for the Lexington Avenue and Flushing Lines.[67] The shuttle platforms are directly connected to Grand Central Terminal's headhouse via a passageway between the main Metro-North concourse and the shuttle platforms' mezzanine, just east of Vanderbilt Avenue (on the west side of the headhouse building).[68]

Grand Central North[edit]

Interactive map: Grand Central North tunnels and entrances
Northwest Passage (shown in red)
Northeast Passage (in orange)
45th Street Cross-Passage (in green)
47th Street Cross-Passage (in blue)
Grand Central Terminal (in black)

Grand Central North is a network of four tunnels that allow people to walk between the station building and exits at 45th Street, 46th Street, 47th Street, and 48th Street.[69] 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.[70][71] 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.[71]

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.[71] A fifth entrance opened in early 2012 on the south side of 47th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues.[72] 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.[73]

Proposals for these tunnels had been discussed since at least the 1970s. The project, titled the North End Access Project,[74] was approved by the MTA board in 1991.[74] Construction on Grand Central North began in 1994,[70] and it was supposed to be completed in 1997 at a cost of $64.5 million.[74] However, progress was slowed by the incomplete nature of the building's original blueprints and previously undiscovered groundwater beneath East 45th Street.[70] The passageways opened on August 18, 1999, at a final cost of $75 million.[70]

The passages contain an MTA Arts & Design mosaic installation by Ellen Driscoll, an artist from Brooklyn.[70]

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,[75] 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.[76]


Glory of Commerce, a sculptural group by Jules-Félix Coutan

Grand Central Terminal has both monumental spaces and meticulously crafted detail, especially on its facade.[77] In 2013, historian David Cannadine described it as one of the most majestic buildings of the twentieth century.[78]

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.[35] 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.[79][80] The station building was to measure 680 feet (210 m) along Vanderbilt Avenue by 300 feet (91 m) on 42nd Street.[35]

Outside the station, the 13-foot (4.0 m) clock in front of the Grand Central façade facing 42nd Street contains the world's largest example of Tiffany glass.[81] 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.[82][83][84]


Main Concourse ceiling, design conceived by Paul César Helleu

The Main Concourse has an elaborately decorated astronomical ceiling,[85] 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.[86] 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.[87][88]

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.[89] Historical preservation dictated that this hole remain unrepaired as a reminder of the many uses of the Terminal over the years.[29]

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.[87] 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 pannels could be attached to the original ceiling via suspension wires, but later found that the ceiling was too weak to support these panels.[88] Starting in September 1996, the ceiling was cleaned and restored to its original design.[88][90] A single dark patch above the Michael Jordan Steakhouse was left untouched by renovators to remind visitors of the grime that once covered the ceiling.[91][87]

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,[92] they have not been corrected in any of the subsequent renovations of the ceiling.[87]


Stage of Saturday Night Live

Among the buildings modeled on Grand Central's design is the Poughkeepsie station, on Metro-North's Hudson Line in Poughkeepsie, New York. It was also designed by Warren and Wetmore and opened in 1918.[93] 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.[94]


Three buildings serving essentially the same function have stood on the current Grand Central Terminal's site.[95] The current building's large and imposing scale was intended by New York Central to compete, and compare favorably in the public eye, with the now-destroyed Pennsylvania Station, an architectural masterpiece built by the arch-rival Pennsylvania Railroad.


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.[95][96] The Harlem Railroad was the first of these railroads to operate,[97] having been incorporated in 1831.[98][99] The railroad had been extended to Harlem, in present-day upper Manhattan, by 1837.[100] 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.[95]

Since the Harlem Railroad had the exclusive right to operate along the east side of Manhattan south of the Harlem River,[101] 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.[102] The 26th Street terminal was later shared with the New Haven Railroad,[96] which was chartered in 1849[103] and had trackage rights to operate on the Harlem Railroad's tracks from Wakefield, Bronx, to Manhattan.[104] 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.[96] When the city banned steam trains below 42nd Street in 1857, the Harlem and New Haven Railroads' southern terminal was moved there.[102][105] The Hudson River Railroad, meanwhile, was limited to the west side of Manhattan, away from the development that was concentrated on the east side.[106]

The business magnate "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, who operated steamboats along the Hudson River, started buying the Harlem Railroad's stock in 1863.[101][107][108] By the next year, he also controlled the Hudson River Railroad.[107][108][109] 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.[110] Drew's efforts to short-sell Harlem and New York Central stock failed, and Vanderbilt made large profits after buying stock in both companies.[111] Vanderbilt became the president of the Hudson River and New York Central Railroads in 1867, and merged them two years later.[108] 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.[104]

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.[112] 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.[105]

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.[95] The three lines would meet at Mott Haven, then run along Park Avenue in Manhattan to a new hub station at 42nd Street.[105]

Grand Central Depot[edit]

Looking out the north end of the Murray Hill Tunnel toward the original Grand Central Depot in 1880. The two larger portals on the right allowed some horsecars to continue further downtown.
The train shed of Grand Central Depot and Station, built from 1869 to 1871 and demolished in 1908[113]

Vanderbilt commissioned John B. Snook to design his new station, dubbed Grand Central Depot, on the site of the 42nd Street depot.[114][115] 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.[116] Snook worked with engineers Isaac Buckhout and R.G. Buckfield to design the structure, which consisted of a three-story head house as well as a train shed to the north and east of the head house.[117] Although Vanderbilt was inspired by French Classical architecture,[104][118] Snook's final design was in the Second Empire style.[119][105]

Construction started on September 1, 1869, and the depot was completed by October 1871.[105] The project included the creation of Vanderbilt Avenue, a service road along the depot's western border.[95] 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.[120][121][122]

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.[95][104][123] It contained passenger service areas at ground level and railroad offices on the upper levels.[123] 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.[105] The train shed's roof was composed of thirty-two trusses that arched above the platforms.[123] 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.[105] The structure measured 695 feet (212 m) along Vanderbilt Avenue and 530 feet (160 m) along 42nd Street.[104][124] Grand Central Depot was the largest railroad station in the world at the time,[123][104] as it contained 12 tracks and could accommodate 150 train cars at once.[124] 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.[125]

Grand Central Depot contained three features that were considered innovative at the time: the platforms were "high-level" platforms, which were level with the train cars' floors; the roof was a balloon shed with a clear span over all of the tracks; and only passengers with tickets were allowed on the platforms, a rule enforced by ticket examiners.[95] The design of Grand Central Depot 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.[126] In particular, Snook took inspiration for the train shed's roof from St Pancras station and London's Crystal Palace,[127] as well as from the Louvre museum in Paris.[128]

But the tracks laid to the new terminal proved problematic. There were originally no grade-separated crossings of the railroads between 42nd and 59th Streets.[129] As such, they required railroad crossings along Fourth Avenue, which resulted in frequent accidents; seven people died within 12 days of the Hudson River Railroad's move to Grand Central.[130] In 1872, shortly after the opening of Grand Central Depot, Vanderbilt proposed the Fourth Avenue Improvement Project.[105] The tracks between 48th and 56th Streets were to be moved into a shallow tunnel,[131] while the segment between 56th and 97th Streets, which was in a rock cut, would be covered over.[105][N 3] After the improvements were completed in 1874, the railroads descended into the Park Avenue Tunnel at 96th Street and continued underground into the new depot.[105] As part of the project, Fourth Avenue was transformed into a boulevard with a median strip, and was renamed Park Avenue.[133][134][135] Eight footbridges crossed the tracks between 45th and 56th Streets, and there were also vehicular overpasses at 45th and 48th Streets.[135]

By 1885, traffic loads at Grand Central Depot had increased considerably. Although the terminal's twelve tracks had been intended to provide sufficient capacity until at least the late 1890s or early 1900s, the depot exceeded this capacity within less than fifteen years of opening.[136] A seven-track annex with five platforms was added to the east side of the existing terminal.[135][136][137] The annex was designed in the same style as the original station with a 90-foot-high (27 m) mansard roof. It would receive passengers heading to New York City, while the original building would handle outbound traffic. According to the New York Sun, if the annex were a standalone station, it would be the fourth-largest railroad station in the United States at that time.[138] The project included the construction of a marginal road on the east side of the annex, called Depew Place. It was named after longtime Vanderbilt lawyer Chauncey Depew and was meant to complement Vanderbilt Avenue on the station's west side.[80] The train yards were also expanded, and various maintenance sheds were moved to Mott Haven.[135]

Grand Central Station[edit]

Postcard of Grand Central Station, c. 1902
Grand Central Station, c. 1902

Grand Central Depot had reached its capacity again by the late 1890s,[139] and it carried 11.5 million passengers a year by 1897.[140] As a result, the railroads renovated the head house extensively. It was expanded from three to six stories with an entirely new façade, based on plans by railroad architect Bradford Gilbert.[139][24] As part of a $2.5 million improvement, the concourse was enlarged so that the three railroads' separate waiting rooms were connected with each other.[139][140] Foyers were added to the west, south, and east sides of the station, and women's waiting rooms, smoking rooms, and restrooms were added. The combined areas of the waiting rooms were increased from 12,000 to 28,000 square feet (1,100 to 2,600 m2).[140][141] The train shed was kept, but the tracks that previously continued south of 42nd Street were removed and the train yard reconfigured in an effort to reduce congestion and turn-around time for trains.[142] A pneumatic switch system was also installed in the train yard.[143] A post office was also proposed for Grand Central Terminal for ease of mail handling.[144]

The reconstructed building was renamed Grand Central Station.[24][25] The new waiting room opened in October 1900.[141] By this time, Grand Central had lost its impression of grandeur, and there was much criticism of the station's cleanliness.[139] For instance, 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."[145]

Park Avenue Tunnel crash and aftermath[edit]

The volume of trains entering Grand Central Station had increased greatly by the late 1890s and early 1900s. The terminal was served exclusively by steam trains, which contributed to smoke and soot accumulations in the Park Avenue Tunnel, the only approach to the station.[146][135] William J. Wilgus, the chief engineer of New York Central, had proposed electrifying the New York Central lines to Grand Central in 1899, using an electric third rail power system devised by Frank J. Sprague. Though Wilgus's plan was approved, it was not carried out due to a lack of funding.[146][147] The smoke buildup resulted in a fatal collision on January 8, 1902. The driver of a southbound train, unable to see several signals because of smoke accumulation, overran the signals and collided with another southbound train in the Park Avenue Tunnel.[148] The crash killed 15 people and injured more than 30 others.[149][150][151]

A week after the crash, New York Central president William H. Newman announced an improvement project in which all of the railroad's suburban lines to Grand Central would be electrified, and the approach to Grand Central would be put underground.[147] Subsequently, the New York state legislature passed a law that banned all steam trains in Manhattan, which would take effect on July 1, 1908.[146][148] 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 upgrade the tracks to accommodate electric trains. Overpasses would be built across the open cut at most of the cross-streets.[152]

The Park Avenue Tunnel collision and subsequent ban on steam trains also prompted Wilgus to write a letter to Newman on December 22, 1902. In his letter, Wilgus, now the vice president of New York Central, stated that electric trains were cleaner, faster, and cheaper to repair. With electrification of the tracks, real estate could be built over the 16-block open cut in which Grand Central Station was located. The proposal also included a 12-story, 2,300,000-square-foot (210,000 m2) building over the terminal to offset the cost of the station, which would create a gross income of $2.3 million per year from rents.[24][25] Wilgus presented his proposal to the New York Central board in March 1903.[135] The terminal was to cost $35 million, but at the time, New York Central made most of its profit from freight. Even so, the railroad's board of directors, including Cornelius Vanderbilt II, William K. Vanderbilt, William Rockefeller, and J. P. Morgan, approved the project on June 30, 1903.[24][25]


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.[24][25]

Design process[edit]

The planned 20-story office building that was to be built over the terminal during its construction

Before construction even started, objections were raised about the fact that dozens of buildings, on a 17-acre (6.9 ha) plot of land, had to be razed to build the terminal. Wilgus, tapped to lead the project, started to figure out ways to build the new terminal efficiently.[24][25] His solution was to demolish the old Grand Central Station and build the new terminal in sections, shifting some operations to the Grand Central Palace Hotel for a while. This doubled the cost of construction, but prevented a break in rail service.[24][25]

Across town, Pennsylvania Station was being built by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which had started building its station and the North River Tunnels in 1901. Wilgus wanted the new Grand Central Terminal's design to compete with Penn Station's similarly grand design, which was being built by McKim, Mead & White. Therefore, in 1903, New York Central set up a design competition to decide the firms who would design the new terminal. Wilgus already had abstract concepts for the new terminal and knew some design flaws in the old depot that he wanted to remove in the new terminal.[24][25]

Although many architects and firms entered the competition, only two won—Reed and Stem and Warren and Wetmore. Reed and Stem, from St. Paul, Minnesota, had won the contract in part because of their experience designing railway stations, and in part because one of the partners, Allen Stem, was Wilgus's brother-in-law. Similarly, Warren & Wetmore, the architects of the New York Yacht Club building, had Whitney Warren, the cousin of William Vanderbilt, as one of its partners. Reed and Stem and Warren and Wetmore 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 added architectural details and the Beaux-Arts style. 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. The team, called Associated Architects of Grand Central Terminal, had a tense relationship due to constant design disputes. Warren and Wetmore's plan, for instance, removed the potentially-profitable tower above the terminal as well as vehicular viaducts around the depot.[24][25]

New York Central submitted its final proposal for the terminal to the New York City Board of Estimate in December 1904. 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.[35]


Excavation for the new Grand Central Terminal, c. 1908
New York Central & Hudson River Railroad bond, prominently featuring the then-new Grand Central Terminal

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 on 300 cars every day. The average construction site was 45 feet (14 m) deep, with the lower level being 40 feet (12 m) below ground. 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. In addition, 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.[24][25]

In 1906–1907, the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad and the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad electrified their tracks with third rail on the approaches to Grand Central Terminal. This allowed electric trains to enter the then-future Grand Central Terminal upon its completion. On September 30, 1906, the first electric train departed for the soon-to-be-demolished Grand Central Station from Highbridge, Bronx.[24][25]

To accommodate ever-growing rail traffic into the restricted Midtown area, Wilgus took advantage of the recent electrification technology to propose a novel scheme: a bi-level station below ground. Arriving trains would go underground under Park Avenue, and proceed to an upper-level incoming station if they were mainline trains, or to a lower-level platform if they were suburban trains.[35] In addition, turning loops within the station itself obviated complicated switching moves to bring back the trains to the coach yards for servicing. Departing mainline trains reversed into upper-level platforms in the conventional way. New track infrastructure allowed maximum train speeds of 52 miles per hour (84 km/h), as well as a massive four-floor, 400-lever signal tower to control the suburban trains.[24][25]

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 were then sold for a large sum of money. In addition, the terminal itself contains support structures for a possible future tower to be built above it. The terminal also did away with bifurcating Park Avenue by introducing a "circumferential elevated driveway" that allowed Park Avenue traffic to traverse around the building and over 42nd Street without encumbering nearby streets. The building was also designed to accommodate reconnecting both segments of 43rd Street by going through the concourse had the City of New York demanded it.[24][25]

The last train left Grand Central Station at midnight on June 5, 1910, and workers promptly began demolishing the old station.[24][25] Plans for the new terminal were filed in January 1911. At the time, the proposals 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 New York City Department of Buildings.[153]

On December 20, 1910, a gas explosion at the station killed 10 people and injured 117 more.[154]

On February 2, 1913, the new terminal was opened, with passengers boarding the first train at one minute past midnight.[155][156][157] Within sixteen hours of opening, there were an estimated 150,000 visitors.[24][25]


Incline between concourses, c. 1910–1920
Bottom of the incline, showing the "whispering gallery" outside the Oyster Bar

Grand Central Terminal was an innovation in transit-hub design. One concept was the use of ramps, rather than staircases, to conduct passengers and luggage through the facility. The terminal contained two ramps from the lower-level suburban concourse to the main concourse, as well as several ramps from the main concourse to entrances on 42nd Street. Although this was not a new concept, Grand Central contained two underground passenger levels, and the installation of ramps allowed all types of travelers to easily traverse between levels.[158] Another was the construction of 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.[159] The western (now southbound) leg of the viaduct was completed in 1919,[160] but congestion developed soon after the viaduct's opening, so an eastern leg for northbound traffic was added in 1928.[159]

Designers of the new terminal also tried to make it as comfortable as possible. To that end, 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.[157][24][25] As part of the plans, Grand Central was also going to have 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.[161] 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".[24][25]

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 had 46 tracks and 30 platforms, more than twice Penn Station's 21 tracks and 11 platforms. In addition, the $43 million Grand Central Terminal had twice as much masonry and steel than Penn Station did, with another $800,000 for a roof that could potentially support a skyscraper in the future.[24][25] The new terminal also had a balloon loop for trains to turn around without reversing out of the station. The station building was 800 feet (240 m) long, 300 feet (91 m) wide, and 105 feet (32 m) high.[161]

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.[162]

Terminal City[edit]

The Helmsley Building, in front of the MetLife Building

The construction of Grand Central spurred the development of an area dubbed "Terminal City" or the "Grand Central Zone", which became the most desirable commercial office district in Manhattan.[163][164][165] 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; and an array of high-end hotels that included the Commodore, Biltmore, Roosevelt, Marguery, Chatham, Barclay, Park Lane, and Waldorf Astoria.

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.[166] 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.[167]

Proposals for demolition and towers[edit]

The MetLife Building was completed in 1963 above Grand Central Terminal.

In 1947, over 65 million people, or equivalent to 40% of the United States' population at the time, traveled through Grand Central. 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.[168]

— 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. [169]The railroad sued the city, alleging a taking.[170][171] 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.[172]

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[edit]

1970s restoration[edit]

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.[173]

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.[174] Trump negotiated various tax breaks and, in the process, agreed to renovate the exterior of the terminal.[175] The complementary masonry from the Commodore was covered with a mirror-glass "slipcover" façade – 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.[176] Trump would sell his half-share in the hotel for $142 million in 1996.[177]

In order to improve passenger flow, a new passageway at Grand Central was opened in May 1975.[178]

Grand Central Terminal was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and declared a National Historic Landmark in the following year.[7][179][180]

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.[181][182]

Metro-North operation and 1990s restoration[edit]

Amtrak announced that it would stop service to the station in 1988.[183] The final Amtrak train stopped at the station on April 7, 1991, upon the completion of the Empire Connection, which allowed trains from Albany, Toronto, and Montreal to use Penn Station. Previously, travelers had to change stations via subway, bus, or cab. Since then, Grand Central has mostly served Metro-North Railroad, except for limited Empire Service Amtrak trains in the summer of 2017 and all Empire Service trains for summer of 2018, with the addition of the Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express, and Adirondack train services.[184][185]

In 1988, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Metro-North's operator, 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.[186] The MTA signed a 280-year lease in 1994. The agency announced a renovation of terminal, in January 1995.[187] The $113.8 million renovation would be the most extensive rehabilitation to the terminal since its opening in 1913. Of the projected cost, $30 million was to come from Metro-North's capital allocation, while the other $84 million was to be raised through the sale of bonds.[188] The MTA expected that the terminal's renovation would be completed 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.[187] By 1998, the cost had risen to $196 million.[188]

The Main Concourse in 1968, featuring large advertisements, blackout paint, and a Merrill Lynch office

During this renovation, all billboards were removed and the station was restored.[173] The most striking effect was the restoration of the Main Concourse ceiling, revealing the painted skyscape and constellations.[88][90] 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.[citation needed]

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,[189] 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.[91] The original quarry in Tennessee was reopened specifically to provide matching stone to replace damaged stone and provide new stone for the new East Staircase. 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.[190][36]

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.[citation needed] A 1.5-short-ton (1.3-long-ton) cast-iron eagle from the facade of the former Grand Central Depot, which later 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.[190][191] 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.[192][190] 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.


Centennial celebration performance, 2013
Foyer at the 42nd Street entrance, dedicated to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 2014

On February 1, 2013, numerous displays, performances and events were held to celebrate the terminal's centennial.[193][194]

Also in 2013, Grand Central became a sister station with Tokyo Station in Japan, in a similar agreement to those of sister cities.[195] The agreement commemorated the two stations' centennials and recognized both as historic landmarks with important social and economic roles.[196] 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.[197]

In 2014, the One Vanderbilt supertall skyscraper was proposed for a site to the west of Grand Central Terminal, across Vanderbilt Avenue.[198] Demolition of the existing buildings on the site began in 2015.[199] The official groundbreaking was in October 2016[200] and the building is expected to be completed in 2020.[201] Its construction includes an underground connection to Grand Central Terminal.[200]

In December 2017, as part of the Customer Service Initiative, the MTA awarded contracts to replace the display boards and public announcement systems at Grand Central Terminal, as well as at 20 other Metro-North stations in New York State. The next-train departure time screens will be replaced with LED signs, and new cables, announcement systems, and security cameras would also be installed.[33]

As part of the 2020–2024 MTA Capital Program, the Grand Central Terminal train shed will be repaired, requiring tearing up portions of Park Avenue and adjacent side streets for many years. The work will repair the shed's concrete and steel.[202]

Long Island Rail Road access[edit]

East Side Access progress in 2014

The MTA is in the midst of a large-scale project to bring Long Island Rail Road trains into the terminal via the East Side Access Project. LIRR trains will access Grand Central from Sunnyside Yard in Queens via the existing 63rd Street Tunnel, utilizing extensions under construction on both the Manhattan and Queens sides. The 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.[203] Cost estimates jumped from $4.4 billion in 2004 to $6.4 billion in 2006, with further estimates increasing to the present assessment of $11.1 billion. The new stations and tunnels will begin service in December 2022.[204]

The East Side Access project includes development of a new bi-level, eight-track tunnel with four platforms, located under Park Avenue more than 90 feet (27 m) below the Metro-North tracks and more than 140 feet (43 m) below the surface. Reaching the street from the lowest level, more than 175 feet (53 m) deep, will take about 10 minutes.[205] There will also be a new 350,000-square-foot retail and dining concourse.[206] It will initially be accessed via stairwells, 22 elevators, and 47 escalators connecting to Grand Central's existing food court, in comparison to the 19 escalators in the remainder of the LIRR system.[207] The MTA plans to build and open additional entrances at 45th, 46th, and 48th streets.[208]

Proposed purchase by the MTA[edit]

Midtown TDR Ventures, LLC, an investment group controlled by Argent Ventures,[209] purchased the station from American Financial in December 2006.[210] 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.[209]

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.[211] The MTA's finance committee approved the proposed purchase on November 13, 2018, and the full board approved the proposal two days later.[212][213][214]

Art and music at Grand Central[edit]

Grand Central Art Galleries[edit]

Medals commemorating the Grand Central Art Galleries' foundation

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.[215] The founders had sought a location in Manhattan that was central and easily accessible, and Alfred Holland Smith, president of New York Central, made the top of the terminal available. A 10-year lease[216] was signed, and the galleries, together with the railroad company, spent more than $100,000 to prepare the space.[217] 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.[218] A total of 20 display rooms were planned for what was intended as "... the largest sales gallery of art in the world".[217] 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.[218]

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.[219][220] The Grand Central School of Art remained in the east wing until 1944.[221]

The Grand Central Art Galleries remained in the terminal until 1958, when they moved to the Biltmore Hotel.[222] They remained at the Biltmore for 23 years, until it was converted into an office building.[223] When the Biltmore was demolished in 1981, they moved to 24 West 57th Street.[224] They had ceased operations by 1994.[225]

Musical performances[edit]

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.[226] 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.[226] 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.[226] 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.[227]

In popular culture[edit]

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."[228] 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.[229] 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.[230]

The terminal's first cinematic appearance was in the 1930 musical film Puttin' On the Ritz.[230] 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.[229] Additionally, the terminal was drawn and animated for use in the 2005 film Madagascar.[231]

Other films in which the terminal appears include:[229][231]

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.[232]


See also[edit]


Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ 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.[1]
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ The line entered fully enclosed brick tunnels between 67th and 71st Streets, and between 80th and 96th Streets. The remainder of this segment was located in a "beam tunnel" structure, which were mostly open-air, except where cross-streets traversed the cut on steel-beam bridges.[132]


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General references[edit]

  1. Belle, John; Leighton, Maxinne Rhea (2000). Grand Central: Gateway to a Million Lives. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-04765-3.
  2. Bilotto, Gregory; DiLorenzo, Frank (2017). Building Grand Central Terminal. Arcadia Publishing Incorporated. ISBN 978-1-4396-6051-5.
  3. Fitch, James Marston; Waite, Diana S. (1974). Grand Central Terminal and Rockefeller Center: A Historic-critical Estimate of Their Significance. Albany, New York: The Division.
  4. Roberts, Sam (January 22, 2013). Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4555-2595-9.</ref>
  5. Robins, A.W.; New York Transit Museum (2013). Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years of a New York Landmark. ABRAMS. ISBN 978-1-61312-387-4. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  6. Schlichting, Kurt C. (2001). Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Architecture and Engineering in New York. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6510-7.

Further reading[edit]

  • Federal Writers' Project (1939). New York City: Vol 1, New York City Guide. US History Publishers. ISBN 978-1-60354-055-1.
  • Fried, Frederick; Gillon, Edmund Vincent Jr. (1976). New York Civic Sculpture: A Pictorial Guide. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-23258-1.
  • Middleton, William D. (1999). Grand Central, the World's Greatest Railway Terminal. San Marino: Golden West Books. OCLC 49014602.
  • O'Hara, Frank; Allen, Donald (1995). The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 168. ISBN 0-520-20166-3.
  • Reed, Henry Hope; Gillon, Edmund Vincent Jr. (1988). Beaux-Arts Architecture in New York: A Photographic Guide. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-25698-7.
  • Stern, Robert A. M.; Gilmartin, Gregory; Massengale, John Montague (1983). New York 1900: Metropolitan Architecture and Urbanism, 1890–1915. New York: Rizzoli. ISBN 0-8478-0511-5.

External links[edit]

External video
Every Detail of Grand Central Terminal Explained on YouTube, Architectural Digest, June 6, 2018
"Train Station Tour: Grand Central Terminal, NYC (Metro North RR)" on YouTube, The Transport Net; February 28, 2016
"Grand Central Terminal LED Stars" on YouTube, Metropolitan Transportation Authority; November 8, 2010