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Grand Central Terminal

Updated on September 30, 2014

Living History of Way More than a Railroad

The Grand Central Terminal in New York City has now been in use for more than 100 years. Most of us mistakenly call it Grand Central Station, but it is technically a terminal, because it is at the beginning of the Metro North Railroad. The iconic homage to the era of heavy rail, which, even though its intended purpose was mostly lost to automobiles and buses and subways - still stands today, largely because of the historical attraction that it has become. Jackie Kennedy-Onassis with the help of the Municipal Art Society of New York, spearheaded a campaign to save it from demise in the 1970s, and Grand Central was transformed to the marble mecca of fabulous-ness it is today thanks to a major remodeling and clean up project in the 1990's. The terminal is still in use - both as a start/end point for commuters on the Metro North Railroad and for subway riders taking the grand central line. But it is much more than a train station or subway stop. Aside from the incredible work of architectural genius that it is, the terminal is loaded with fun facts and phenomena (secret passages, whispering walls), is a shopping experience beyond no other and it provides public space of huge proportions, both for spontaneous events (think "flash mob") and for tourists and weary travelers (and, yes - homeless) to stop and rest a spell.

I remember my first time there. I was in my early twenties with a group from college on spring break. We took the subway with all our luggage to Grand Central Terminal so we could re-group and figure out where we were going from there. With my little group of young southerners, clueless, in this huge world of marble and awe - I felt humbled and excited and somehow other-worldly at the same time. Everybody seemed so sure of themselves. Even the homeless seemed to have an edge. Lost in the city, Grand Central Terminal was like a giant protective umbrella of stone. "if you can stand beneath my walls, I will help you get to where you need to go" it seemed to say to me.

Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years of a New York Landmark
Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years of a New York Landmark

Celebrating the anniversary of 100 years of continuous service and providing safe passage for more than rail....

 

Fun Times at Grand Central - Flash Mobs and More!

These are not all "Flash Mobs", but are still fun celebrations of the space and joy that happens when people congregate at Grand Central Station (or Terminal as it is officially called)

The other thing these vids do is show you life at Grand Central Terminal on any typical day at any typical time. Have fun!

Love Train Flash Mob

Zodiac on the Ceiling

Some say it was a mistake, others that it was supposed to be backwards. When looking up at the ceiling in Grand Central, you're actually looking at a mirror image of the October Zodiac. Those who deny it was a mistake claim it's so we can see the sky the way God sees it.

The Sky is Backwards? - Zodiac is a God's Eye View

Grand Central Sky
Grand Central Sky
Sleep Deprived Homeless
Sleep Deprived Homeless

Drug-Free Mood Enhancer

The Plight of the Homeless at Grand Central

New York's homeless residents have been in and out of the terminal since its beginning. Every few years the situation becomes out of hand and someone manages to send them on their way. Other than the fact that it is a public space, I can see other reasons it is such a draw for the downtrodden. The homeless person might feel more comfortable among the arched and high starlit ceilings - where one's spirit can rise and dance above, while they find a safe place for their body to rest. Metro North Railroad claims they are not a provider of social services, and that the homeless are not welcome there. I find myself in a bit of disagreement with that argument, however.

Is Grand Central not a popular place for flash mobs? Is that not "social"? And what about the designers and architects of the terminal? According to Jessica Halem of the Municipal Art Society, it was intended for the ordinary person to feel like they were in a cathedral. Also, is there not something spookily "social" about whispering walls? And what about the secret passage line for presidents and other V.I.P.'s? If they need their own private route, then who are they getting "away" from if the Grand Central Terminal is not "social"? Is Central Park too snooty to deny the homeless access in fair weather? So where can they get away from the cold if not here? The space is leased by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority, who is defined as a "Public Benefit Corporation". Hello.

New York City, to the rest of the country (and perhaps the world) is a microcosm - a sort of representation of the United States...and Grand Central Terminal is like a microcosm of New York City. How we treat our homeless is part of that vision. Ideally, of course, we would have no homeless. But, since we do, we must deal with the issue rather than hide them away as if they do not exist.

It is my experience that we can co-exist with those who find themselves in the state of no place to go. The most difficult issue for those who end up in the presence of a homeless person is generally the fact that they often do not smell so good. I think there is a high-end gym or racquet club owned by the Donald somewhere in the 48 acre complex of Grand Central Terminal. How about this? Instead of kicking them out from two to five am when the terminal closes, offer them a shower and a clean change of clothes. If they were allowed to clean up, they would more likely go un noticed, which, from what I understand, is what most of them really want anyway. At the very least, their presence could be better tolerated. We treat animals in the zoo better than we treat our homeless. I know it is not up to the transit authority to take care of them, but since they are part of the public, and the space is "social", turning them out may not be the best bet either.

Grand Central Terminal: Gateway to New York City
Grand Central Terminal: Gateway to New York City

It is an ambassador to the great city, and therefore to the USA. How Grand Central keeps its purpose

 

What is "Social" Anyway?

Definition of social (adj)

Bing Dictionary

so·cial

[ soshel ]

1. relating to society: relating to human society and how it is organized

2. relating to interaction of people: relating to the way in which people in groups behave and interact

3. living in a community: living or preferring to live as part of a community or colony rather than alone

What Do you Think? - Should the Homeless be Allowed in Grand Central Terminal?

You've heard my side - let's talk about it! What is your opinion?

Should the Homeless be Allowed in the Terminal?

Into the Fray - Grand Central Station

Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America
Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America

It did transform America, and it it's own way, it still does.

 
Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and Architecture in New York City
Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and Architecture in New York City

It is no easy feat cramming millions of people a year into 48 acres of mall. How they did it and still made it the incredible piece of art as architecture that is is!

 

Secret Passageway - Roosevelt's Private Car

Roosevelt's Private Rail Car
Roosevelt's Private Rail Car

The track leads to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where President Franklin Roosevelt stayed when in New York. Some say the private car and secret tunnel were built to protect his privacy, others that he was hiding the fact that he had Polio.

Andy Warhol's Painted Car at Grand Central Terminal

Andy Warhol's Painted Car at Grand Central Terminal
Andy Warhol's Painted Car at Grand Central Terminal

Great Oaks from Tiny Acorns Grow

The Terminal was built and financed by the Vanderbilt family, whose motto is represented throughout the Terminal. Whenever you see an acorn, you know it's part of their legacy - truly representative of the American Dream, as Cornelius Vanderbilt started out with very little himself!

Shh It's a Secret - Whispering gallery

Whispering Gallery
Whispering Gallery

I can talk to you from across the room, and no one will hear but you!

Strange feat of engineering makes the architecture work as a carrier of whispers.

- just outside the Oyster Bar. If you whisper into a corner it can be heard by someone in a corner across the way.

Fun Facts - The Truth about GCS

Why Trains Run on Time - At Grand Central Terminal

The Clock is Fast in case you're slow on your feet
The Clock is Fast in case you're slow on your feet

If you get to your train one minute late at Grand Central Station, no worries - you're actually right on time! All departure times are listed one minute ahead of schedule to give your feet more time to get there!

By the way, this clock is a rare treasure - the four faces are made of solid Opal. The departure times may be one minute fast, but the clock has Swiss motors and is very accurate.

Ewww! - One Tile Left Unclean

Unclean Tile
Unclean Tile

During the big renovation in the 1990's, they left this tile unchanged so that we could appreciate the drastic difference. Most of the stains were from years of cigarette smoke. This shows what a huge project it was to clean it up!

Thanks for visiting!

Have You Been to Grand Central Terminal? - Tell us about your experience!

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    • blestman lm profile image

      blestman lm 

      5 years ago

      It's a beautiful site. I like the fact that its been cleaned up a LOT. Great lens. thank you for the tribute to GCT

    • profile image

      golfspice 

      5 years ago

      Enjoyed the vibrancy of life in the station and grandeur of the building on my one and only visit to New York (15 years ago). When the opportunity came, Grand Central was one of those iconic places I had to see.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      I haven't been, but I sure want to visit. Thanks for sharing this well-written page with us.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      5 years ago

      I have never been there and because of your lens, When I can I will visit fo sure

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