Last Friday the MTA held a celebration for Grand Central’s Centennial, which expectedly turned out to be a widely attended day-long event. One of the main events was a rededication ceremony for the Terminal, held that morning. There were a wide array of speakers at the ceremony, including Mayor Bloomberg, Cynthia Nixon and Caroline Kennedy. Peter Stangl, the first president of Metro-North also spoke, as did Howard Permut, current president of Metro-North.
The West Point Brass and Percussion Band also performed, which seemed quite appropriate. According to historical accounts of Grand Central’s opening, the first song to ever be played in the Terminal was the Star Spangled Banner, which was not yet our national anthem at that time, on the east balcony. The band’s placement right below the east balcony as they played the song seemed rather appropriate, and probably the closest we’d get to reenacting what happened on February 2nd, 1913, at 12:01 AM. Also a fitting mirror was a presentation of a key to Mr. Permut by members of the Vanderbilt family – similar to the presentation of keys to Terminal Manager Miles Bronson one hundred years ago.
The only unfortunate thing to note is that much of the celebration was focused on the VIPs, as opposed to the lowly commuters that actually use Grand Central. (And for the record, no, running this blog did not qualify me as a VIP – I asked and was rejected. An “actual” member of the “press” granted me a pass in their stead. Thanks Steve!) VIP guests to the event got a special program and booklet, which are visible here:
Two poems were written about Grand Central by poet Billy Collins. The long poem was illustrated in one booklet, and the short poem appears on this "Poetry in Motion" poster. The posters were not handed out at the event, but have been sighted on trains.
The text on the inside of the booklet was the longer poem that was read by Billy Collins during the ceremony. The shorter poem, which he also read, appears in the program, and on trains thanks to Poetry in Motion and Arts for Transit.
If you’re not familiar with Collins, he is a New York native that was both New York State Poet Laureate, and Poet Laureate of the United States… which in the poetry world is kind of a big deal. While I’m sure plenty of poems have been written about Grand Central, Collins’ poems may be the most high profile written about our lovely Terminal.
As of right now, I have little to say about the Transit Museum’s show “Grand by Design.” Unfortunately, a hundred years wasn’t quite enough to finish up the exhibition, and it seemed that things were missing. The fact that Cornelius Vanderbilt was not mentioned or pictured seemed like a mistake of monumental proportion. Apparently it turned out that Mr. Vanderbilt was supposed to be on that nice blank spot we’re all pointing to in the photo above. I was also disappointed that there was no mention of William Kissam Vanderbilt either – he was really the only Vanderbilt that had a direct influence on the construction of Grand Central. (If the Vanderbilts are still confusing you, it means you haven’t yet read this.) But in all honesty, I may have just been depressed that Anderson Cooper did not attend the event – he is a Vanderbilt, after all.
Another event that happened on Friday regarded the new United States Postal Service stamp, picturing Grand Central, illustrated by Dan Cosgrove. If you were one of the hundreds of people that failed to get the Grand Central centennial cover and stamp on Friday, you can purchase them directly online. Word was that within fifteen minutes they ran out of envelopes for the stamps. The whole purpose of the event was to get the stamp on the special envelope and get it postmarked… so I feel bad for all the people that waited in that line to get just the stamp, which could be purchased at any post office. If you’re looking to grab the covers with the February 1 date stamp online, the USPS site offers two versions for purchase, one with a color postmark for $21.10, or a regular first day stamp for $20.39.
Back on topic, the entire event was a big birthday bash for Grand Central. And no birthday celebration would be complete without a little music…
Sarah Charness played the electric violin, and later Melissa Manchester sang. Manchester also shouted “I love you, gorgeous!” at the sky ceiling, which might be cute, had I not been thinking about this.
The gorgeous cake was made by Eric Bedoucha of Financier Patisserie – a delicious confection modeled after the Information Booth’s clock. It was supposedly saved for the VIP dinner to be hosted at the Oyster Bar that night… which in itself is another mirror to actual events, as the first VIP dinner happened February 1st 1913 at 8 PM.
That about sums it up for the Centennial. With the ceremony past, I figured I’d leave off with a quick recap of all fifteen articles I wrote about Grand Central over the past hundred days.
- On the Hunt for Grand Central’s Acorns – Hidden throughout the Terminal are hundreds of acorns, the symbol of the Vanderbilt family.
- Celebrating Grand Central Terminal’s Centennial: The 100 for 100 Project – An introduction to our 100 historical photos per day project.
- The Hoax in the Information Booth – You may be able to buy an Apple in Grand Central Terminal today, but one fruit seller got scammed into thinking he could sell apples from the Info Booth in 1929.
- Grand Central Theatre and the Other Sky Ceiling – There is actually a lesser known sky ceiling in Grand Central, a leftover of the 242 seat theater that once called Grand Central home.
- Grand Central’s Biltmore Room – the “Kissing Gallery” – Yes, there were actually rules regarding kissing and public displays of affection in Grand Central Terminal!
- A visit to the secret library inside Grand Central Terminal – Not only does Grand Central have a library hidden inside, it also possesses a prized historical artifact.
- The life of a Grand Central commuter – Photos from the Farm Security Administration – Photographers of the FSA didn’t just capture farms, they captured everyday life… including a commuter from Westport that traveled to Grand Central daily.
- The Mystery of Grand Central’s Suburban Concourse – Photographic evidence I discovered seems to show that Grand Central’s lower level track numbers were changed at some point in history.
- New York’s Other Great Station – Photos of Penn Station, and musings on its influence over Grand Central.
- James P. Carey, Grand Central’s Entrepreneur Extraordinaire A profile and some history regarding James Carey, Grand Central’s barber with a keen sense for business.
- Sending Postcards from Grand Central – A collection of over 30 postcards of the Terminal from the past hundred years.
- The Coolest Place in Grand Central: The Clock Tower – Some history and photos about the clock and sculpture on Grand Central’s facade.
- A Hundred Years of the Oyster Bar, Grand Central Terminal Restaurant – An interesting look at the history, and menus, of the Oyster Bar restaurant, Grand Central’s longest established tenant.
- Recap of the Grand Central 100 for 100 project – The 100 historical Grand Central photos we featured over the course of 100 days.
- Happy 100th, Grand Central Terminal – an infographic featuring a timeline of Grand Central, and 10 interesting facts about the Terminal you probably didn’t know.
Happy Birthday, Grand Central!