Last week I finished up the Tour of the Harlem Line with the final station, Botanical Garden. But there was one more station that I wanted to feature – a station that we all know, and a wonderful landmark of the city of New York. That station is of course, Grand Central Terminal. It is a bit of coincidence that I’ve chosen this day to present Grand Central – for it was on this day, February 1, 1913, that the final preparations for the opening of the station were made… with the official opening to the public at midnight.
Grand Central has been mentioned this blog quite a few times before, from the 1902 train wreck that led to electric service and paved the way for the station, to the 1910’s advertisements highlighting its opening. I’ve also discussed the gorgeous sculpture on the front façade, the role Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis played in saving Grand Central, and a little bit about the Vanderbilts, and how the station may be like an architectural embodiment of that family. Despite all of that, there is always so much more I could write about Grand Central, but that is something for another day. Today I want to take you on a photographic tour of the wonders of this place…
If there is one constant about Grand Central, it is certainly my awe every time I enter the main concourse. I have certainly been there a million times, but I am still always amazed. There is a little part of me that is envious of all the Metro-North employees that are employed in this beautiful building, and see it every day. I’ve taken photos here a million times as well, and I don’t think I am ever pleased with any of them, for they never seem to do the place any justice. Beauty can be found throughout – not just in the concourse or on the front façade. The little details always captivate me, from the stylized GCT monogram, to the little sculptural acorns that can be found all over – a symbol of the Vanderbilt family.
I hope you all enjoy this final stop on my tour of the Harlem Line. I had a great time not just photographing, but exploring. I tried to do that at Grand Central as well – not just photographing the main concourse, but to explore and see the areas that aren’t as often captured, like the lower level’s dining concourse. The tables that you will find down there are a wonderful little addition, covered in old rail ephemera. There are plenty of other little details like this throughout, which I love. Most of the photos were taken in public areas, except for a few of the main concourse which were taken on the second and sixth floors.
For now we shall bid the Tuesday Tour posts adieu, but don’t be too sad, when the spring arrives I will be heading out to more stations on another line. By this time next year I might not be known solely as the Cat Girl, but as the crazy nutjob that has been to, and photographed, every Metro-North station!
In a space as vast at GCT, there are many many details to see. But what of the untold stories, the countless feet that traveled over those floors? If you go towards track 100 on the lower level, toward the north west corner there is a stairway that heads upstairs. Stop and look at the treads on it someday. The softly rounded edges on the front from 98 years of use. Think about that, you can stand places that have not changed in 98 years in the Terminal. What would have been like to see that space for the first time 98 years ago, the soft pink glow of the marble, the noise, the electric lights and fantasy of seeing such far flung places that you hardly ever heard of, like North Adams, or Watertown, or places that everyone talked about like Detroit or Chicago.
Back in 81-83 when I traveled through the terminal a great deal, it was a different place. Above the tracks and on the wings of the upper level of the concourse were the old roll signs, frozen in time displaying names of trains long gone, the advance pacemaker, the commodore and the Montrealer. The ticket windows, staffed by then Conrail workers on the right, the Harlem and Hudson soleri boards above the windows, to the left they were OTB windows, with the New Haven boards above those, and going up the ramp to the waiting room were the Amtrak Ticket windows. Yes, Grand Central was still a long distance passenger station with a daily departure to Chicago still. The bathrooms were still at the end of the waiting room, giant spaces where you could shave and change after a long train journey, now dirty, forlorn and reeking of neglect. Paint peeling from the 42 second street passageway ceilings, unchanged light bulbs dark and sooty. The smell of diesel exhaust and the blue haze over the concourse. But Zarro’s was there, a clean oasis where people on the go would stop for a snack or loaf of bread.
What a space to be in, the happy reunions, the tragic farewells, the movies made and the lives changed as people walked up into the incoming train room for the first time. A place so Grand, then declined to near death, and back again to greatness. That is why it is, and always will be, the Grandest Terminal in the world.
Exactly… You put that so very eloquently!
You have quite the artistic eye. I love that you were able to take pictures of Grand Central at Christmastime. I too am always in awe when I step into Grand Central but the station is even more beautiful during the holidays. Thank you for posting this.
No, thank you for complimenting and reading!
Great pictures. Thanks for sharing. I remember Grand Central from the early ’80s too. The Lower Level was a creepy place on a weekend. Amazing how different it is today. The huge waiting room filled with the homeless. Everything grimy (except Zaro’s), but the grandeur still peeked out from behind the grime and advertisements. An amazing sight of what could be when they pulled the lockers out of the Arrivals Room and restored it. A small space but boy did it shine. Restoring the whole building seemed unimaginable back then.
Also remember Metro-North had an open house in the mid-’90s one weekend. Really cool. Aside from the usual building tours and exhibits, got a chance to see Tower A (when it was still operational) and use the simulators. Very cool.
Have you ever heard of Photosynth? It’s a Microsoft project to map spaces in 3D using photos, and they have great support for huge panoramas like yours – but in 3D. Here’s one I shot of Grand Central Terminal. You can click and drag and zoom in and out. The full-size images is over 41 megapixels.
The only problem is that, last time I used it, the only way to export a panorama to it was to use Microsoft’s Image Composite Editor. It’s a free download and works great…most of the time. Most of the images you’ve posted with lots of warped straight lines would be completely mangled in ICE. There’s a plug-in for Photoshop to export as a 3D image, but last time I used Photosynth they didn’t work together. They can be embedded in some websites, however. You may have seen this, but if you haven’t…
Just something to think about from a fellow panorama freak. Thanks for posting – Grand Central Terminal is a truly fascinating place.
How did you get access to the second and sixth floors?
your photographs of Grand Central are wonderful. you have really captured the beauty and essence of this national landmark. one observation i should share…the caption for the historic image of the Pearl River station is not quite accurate. it should read:
“Dexter Folder Company Sunday picnic outing. Employees and families at the Erie Railroad depot, Pearl River, New York, ca.1910-1913”
the Dexter Folder Company was located across the railroad tracks from the Pearl River station. the above caption has been published somewhere with the same photograph you have posted but unfortunately i did not record the source.