Grand Central Terminal is one of the busiest and most historic of New York’s National Landmarks. More than 80 million people pass through this building every year. When the original building opened in 1871, its 42nd Street location was well north of most of Manhattan’s homes and business. Today, it sits in the heart of the city; a jewel of Beaux Arts style and an echo of New York’s glamorous past.
The History of Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal began as Grand Central Depot in 1871, an innovative new train station servicing New York’s biggest rail lines. It was almost entirely torn down and rebuilt in the years between 1903 and 1913, reborn as the Beaux Arts gem now called Grand Central Terminal.
Today, Grand Central Terminal is a hub for New York’s many commuter trains. By the mid-1940s, the Terminal was at its peak, with more than 60 million people passing through every year; almost half the population of the United States.
Dozens of television shows and movies have been filmed at Grand Central Terminal, including The Avengers, Carlito’s Way, Midnight Run, even the cartoon hit Madagascar.
Design Elements in Grand Central Terminal
The central attraction is the information booth in the center of the concourse, and its four-faced brass clock is probably the most recognizable feature of Grand Central.
Visitors to Grand Central Terminal should stop for a moment to soak in some of the incredible design in the building. Look for the sculpted oak leaves and acorns that were symbols of the Vanderbilt family, who once owned the station and whose family motto was “from the acorn grows the mighty oak.” You can see some in the chandeliers of the main waiting room.
The floors are marble, imported from Tennessee. The walls are adorned with Botticino marble and Caen stone. Outside, on 42nd Street, you can find an imposing Tiffany clock, as well as statues of Minerva, Hercules and Mercury.
Don’t forget to look up. The ceiling of Grand Central Terminal is designed to reflect the starry night sky, complete with constellations, including Orion and Gemini. You can lose count of the more than 2,000 stars painted there, and on a dark day, you can see that the stars even twinkle, thanks to some help from electric bulbs.
In order to see everything that Grand Central Terminal has to over, visitors can download the Grand Central Terminal tour app to their smartphone, or take a Grand Tour or an audio tour of the terminal. For either tour, just head to the GCT Tour window on the main concourse.
Grand Central Terminal has lots of places to eat, offering everything from a Starbucks coffee or a quick burger at Shake Shack, to some of the most historic fine dining in Manhattan.
Grand Central’s Oyster Bar is the oldest restaurant on the Dining Concourse, having served world class seafood since the building opened itself in 1913. It’s as famous for its design as the building it calls home, with its vaulted tile ceilings providing the best acoustics for quiet conversation in the city,
For a step back in time, head for a drink at the Campbell Apartment, a trendy cocktail lounge often called one of the best bars in the United States. The room used to be the private salon of tycoon John W. Campbell, and its impeccable architecture has been completely restored to breathtaking effect.
If you don’t feel like stopping for lunch or a drink, you can spend your time in one of New York’s most popular activities: shopping! Grand Central Terminal has nearly 70 shops inside where you can buy everything from computers and shoes to bath products and sportswear.