Grand Central Terminal is more than just a landmark. It is regarded as one of America's greatest transportation hubs and an international example of restoration and use of a historic building. For many residents and visitors, the Grand Central Terminal is one of the must-visit iconic places in New York City. Here are 6 interesting facts about this national institution to pique your visit.
Grand Central Terminal is one of two magnificent train stations that were built in New York in the era of rail transportation. It was hailed as the largest and greatest railway terminal in the world in 1913 and serviced 75,000 to 100,000 passengers daily. The original railway station commissioned in 1869 featured only a large glass and steel train shed.
Constructed at a cost of USD80 million between 1903 to 1913, the expanded terminal encompassed at total area of 282,471 square metres with 67 tracks and separate concourses for incoming and outgoing trains. Some 180 buildings between 42nd and 50th Street were demolished to make way for the new station.
The new terminal that was constructed housed the only all-electric signal system and the longest amount of mainline railroad electrification in the entire nation. The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Grand Central Terminal as a New York City Landmark in 1967.
2) A Masterpiece of Civil Engineering and Architecture
Grand Central Terminal is regarded as an design masterpiece for its Beaux-Arts facade on 42nd Street. The Large arches are flanked by Corinthian columns topped by a large sculpture group depicting Mercury [god of commerce] with Minerva and Hercules [representing mental and moral strength]. Measuring 426.72 centimetres in diametre, the world's largest Tiffany clock, resides at the center of the sculptural group.
More impressive is the main concourse, laid with Tennessee marble, Caen stone walls, Botticino marble double staircase and a 43 metres high ceiling designed with zodiac constellations and dotted with 23 metres high arched windows that allow natural light to peek in. This grandeur of design makes the main concourse one of the city's most sought-after public event spaces. Grand Central Terminal is also considered a triumph of civil engineering for its massive underground two-story train yard hidden from public view.
Today, Grand Central Terminal serves as a transportation hub connecting train, metro, car and pedestrian traffic seamlessly. The Metro-North Railroad formed in 1983 to consolidate the lines that ran into Grand Central has grown into the largest commuter railroad service in the US over 30 years. Long Island commuters will be able to travel directly to Manhattan's east side with the planned completion of Metro-North's East Side Access project into Grand Central. The new concourse and platforms for Long Island Railroad trains will extend the impact and importance of Grand Central Terminal.
Grand Central Terminal has gone from being a long-distance rail station to a unique retail destination with specialty shops, restaurants, cocktail lounges and a gourmet market for commuters and visitors.
The Terminal underwent a USD196 million, 2-year restoration in 1996. Within the railway station, the main waiting space was converted into an exhibition hall and 6,038.7 square metres of retail space was added on the lower level. The receiving area of the main concourse has also become a popular public event space in NYC.
Moncler Grenoble Show takes over Grand Central / Photo by Dan Nguyen @ New York City of Flickr
Its mix of tenants is unlike anywhere else in Manhattan due to the small retail spaces that attract boutique-type tenants. With the added 2,043.87 square metres of retail space resulting from the planning planned opening of the Long Island Rail Road concourse in 2018, Grand Central Terminal's position as a retail destination is secured.
Popularly referred to as the "O-Bar", this historic venue with vaulted, Guastavino tiled ceilings dates back to 1913 when the Terminal opened. Located at the lower concourse, it is regarded as one of the grandest restaurants in NYC not only for its breathtaking interiors, but also for its oysters and list of 300 bottles of wine. With plenty of old-world atmosphere and a well-stocked bar to enjoy, you might just end up missing your train.
Grand Central Terminal has been spurring the development of its surrounding areas since the concept of "air rights" was introduced to allow developers to construct buildings on top of the rail yards in exchange for monies. This has led to some 30 city blocks being developed with a web of offices, hotels and adjacent subway stations near the Terminal connected by underground boulevards lined with retail shops. The commuter train service also catalysed population growth of the Bronx and the northern suburbs.
This grand dame of New York's transportation hubs is destined to become even more central and important than ever in NYC's future growth with the planned arrival of Long Island Rail Road trains by 2020 and the extension of the 7 subway line which connects Hudson Yards. The Terminal is expected to receive some 800,000 commuters, shoppers and tourists every day by then.
The expanded transportation network will spur the development of more than 929,030 square metres of new office and retail space in the surrounding neighbourhood. The monies raised from the selling of air rights for these developments will be invested into a various pedestrian improvements around the Terminal such as the pedestrian green space of Broadway in Times Square.