One of NYC’s most glorious icons turned 100 earlier this month with a whole day of festivities. I stopped by Grand Central Station to celebrate the transport terminal’s centennial on February 1, when its always-crowded main hall was absolutely packed with brass bands, ballroom dancers, a Grand Central-themed cake, and, of course, the commuters wondering why this was all happening.
While the train center’s official name is Grand Central Terminal, most everyone calls it Grand Central Station, which was the name of the transit hub it replaced in 1913. Around 150,000 people flooded in on its opening day, and there was almost universal love for its soaring Beaux-Arts design and stately halls. The original 1871 station had to be replaced after steam locomotives were banned from the city (a gruesome train collision in 1902, in which two trains “telescoped” and killed 17, played no small part in the renovation and rebuild).
At the time it was built, it was the largest train station in the world. (It has long been surpassed, and I think Nagoya Station in Japan is currently in the lead.) It’s still the grandest in New York, and one of the few of our transit centers that is actually a beautiful place. (Sorry new Penn Station and Atlantic-Pacific, you’re sort of dreary.) One of its most stunning features is the terminal clock, which, since its four sides are made from Tiffany glass, is estimated to be worth millions. There’s also the starry mural above with its zodiac constellations, illuminated by bulbs that have to be replaced from the attic, which is almost 50 feet above the floor.
If you weren’t able to make it to the birthday (which also included snacks at 1913 prices), there’s a wonderful exhibition called Grand By Design on the station in its Vanderbilt Hall through the middle of March. There are all sorts of centennial events throughout the year (I’ve personally most excited about Nick Cave’s soundsuit horses), so I’ll have to keep an eye out during my commutes.