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Hotel Commodore: Part 2 — 10 Reasons Why You’ll Love the New Skyscraper Next to Grand Central History Photos

In part one we left off with the story of the Hotel Commodore and its gradual fall into disrepair, mirroring the downturn of passenger railroading in the United States. The subsequent story has been oft-told, largely because one of the major players is a flamboyant former president of the United States. In his first major real estate deal, Donald Trump used his father’s influence with the local political apparatus to negotiate a deal for tax breaks for the old hotel. After arranging an unprecedented 40 year tax abatement arrangement with the city, Trump then negotiated with Hyatt to partner in...

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Hotel Commodore: Past, Present, and Future: Part 1 History Videos

By now you’ve probably heard the news that there are even more changes coming to Grand Central’s doorstep, with another skyscraper slated to be constructed alongside it. The Grand Hyatt, formerly known as the Hotel Commodore, will be demolished and a supertall structure built in its stead. The area surrounding the Terminal has already seen—and will continue to see—changes due to the rezoning of Midtown East approved by City Council in 2017. In exchange for higher and denser office buildings, developers must also improve access to transit or paths for pedestrians. One Vanderbilt, on Grand Central’s west side, was one...

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A Rotary Converter and the Power Historian History Photos Videos

One of the joys of running this site is getting the chance to meet interesting people. When researching the supposed Nazi sabotage of Grand Central’s sub basement known as M42, I encountered a video on YouTube showing one Robert Lobenstein—identified as the retired General Superintendent of Power Operations at New York City Transit—starting up an old rotary converter. I had seen rotary converters before, the very ones in Grand Central’s M42, in fact. Yet I had never seen one in operation, and the video fascinated me. It was clear that the modern static frequency converters I had encountered on filming...

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Sleep Going to Keep Going: Pullman War Ads, Part 1 Advertisements History

When I started researching for the story I posted a few weeks back about how the Nazis didn’t actually plan on attacking a substation at Grand Central during World War II, I amassed quite a lot of information about the railroads during the war. There are many facets to the story – from the gigantic posters that were installed in Grand Central to raise money with war bonds, to the movement of troops and materiel during the war—with railroads carrying 90% of the military’s freight, and 98% of its personnel, trains were an integral operation on the home front. As...

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Finally, Moynihan. Events History Photos

Viewed as one of the most heinous crimes to ever have occurred in American architecture, the demolition of Pennsylvania Station served as a turning point for historic preservation in the United States. With the destruction of McKim, Mead, and White’s Beaux arts masterwork, Penn Station’s underground tracks and modified mezzanines still survived, but only as a shadow of their previous selves. Gone was the light spilling through triumphant glass archways and elegant classically styled columns—a fitting gateway to New York that allowed one to enter “like a god.” Instead, one now “scuttles in like a rat,” navigating the subterranean labyrinth...

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Substations and Sabotage: The true story of M42 and Nazi spies in Grand Central History

For a station with as storied a history as Grand Central Terminal, there’s bound to be a few hoaxes or tall tales shared over the years. The best stories always begin with a kernel of truth, to lay a believable foundation to imagine from. In the case of Grand Central’s sub basement, known as M42, a tall tale has sprung a life of its own. Just search for M42 online and you will read stories of a “clandestine” or “top secret” basement that “Hitler tried to destroy.” In reality, most things you’ve heard about M42 are probably false. The fictional...

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