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Secrets of Grand Central Station

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by Joann Jovinelly (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer/photographer living in the East Village neighborhood of New York City.
Published December 16th 2009
Who hasn't wandered around New York City and wondered about the riches of its past? Grand Central Terminal, one of the city's splendid time capsules, exists in the heart of midtown. Curious visitors can travel back in time to learn about the fabulous Beaux-arts structure—and its secrets—on any weekend by skillfully dodging daily commuters. Start by picking up a free map and directory at the "I Love New York" information window inside the Main Concourse.

Once there, begin your tour near the opal-faced four-sided clock. Ask an attendant about a secret door inside the pagoda. Now closed to the public, it once housed an entry to the lower level via a spiral staircase. Marvel at the rich, sunlight-filled terminal dominated by its triad of 60-foot windows. Observe the refurbished star-studded astronomical mural, now outfitted with fiber-optic lights, and the original gold-plated chandeliers that sparkle just as they did at the station's opening ceremony in February 1913.

Call your attention to the abundance of luxurious materials that make up the 80,000-square foot interior with floors of Tennessee marble. Note the detailed stone walls and their oak leaf designs. Hand carved in Botticino marble, the motif was a favorite of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the American entrepreneur responsible for the original Grand Central Depot, circa 1871. The mirrored, marble staircases that face the east and west of the Concourse were modeled after staircases in the Paris Opera House.

Ponder about the station's sub-basement that was once visited by WWII-era spies, about meetings of art lovers who gathered in a gallery in the attic of the east wing from 1924 to 1944, and take a peek at the newly renovated Vanderbilt Hall and Campbell Apartment, just up the west wing stairs.

Wrap up your tour on the lower level where you can try the "whispering gallery" located at the end of the ramps near the Oyster Bar Restaurant, an eatery that has been serving Manhattan since 1913. With one person on either side, the vaulted ceilings enable mere whispers to be heard clearly from across the room. What's that you say? You're feeling peckish? No problem: Grand Central Terminal also houses a variety of eating establishments, from casual to fine dining, as well as terrific shops, seasonal attractions, and a full-service gourmet market. Oh yeah, you can also catch a train.
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Why? Because history becomes alive when it's just under your feet.
When: Seven days, 8AM-8PM
Where: Midtown, 42nd Street and Park Avenue
Cost: Free
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Comments
I have lived here my whole life and never knew this beautiful train station had such a hidden history. I have tried the whispering trick and it really does work. Quite amazing!

If you eat here, try Hale and Hearty. Its by far the best soup joint in the city.
By Kelly Aspen - senior writer
Monday, 13th of December @ 01:21 pm
Thankyou, you transported me across oceans to see and feel this wonderful adventurous place on another continent. I felt like a child seeing a place anew.

The artists collective would be an amazing thing to have going in the present day. Thanks for sharing. You write well and tell the story with a an eye, so the reader sees what you are describing.
By Jody Kimber - senior reviewer
Thursday, 24th of March @ 07:04 am
Hi Joann,
Love your review. I've seen Grand Central Station in many a movie, and always been impressed with its architecture. Now it will be right up there on my list of must-see things when I finally make it to New York.
By Geraldine Massey - senior reviewer
Friday, 7th of October @ 05:43 am
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