Sending postcards from Grand Central…

Sending postcards from Grand Central

When it comes to any monument with a long history like Grand Central, there’s plenty to write home about. As those who have followed this blog for a while know, I have an affinity for railroad postcards, and especially those from Grand Central. Over the past one hundred years, countless cards featuring the Terminal have been printed and sent all over the world.

Part of the reason I find these postcards so interesting is that they are a great way to see how Grand Central has changed over the past 100 years. Many buildings sprang up around the Terminal – most notably in 1929 when the New York Central building was constructed behind, and in 1958 when construction commenced on the Pan Am building. But perhaps most notable are the cards that show what everyone thought Grand Central would look like. Several of the postcards were printed before Grand Central was ever completed – and one even imagined the inside of the Terminal with a glass ceiling, not the painted sky ceiling we are all familiar with (which did appear in an early Warren & Wetmore sketch).

As Grand Central’s centennial is fast approaching, I thought this would be a perfect time to share a collection of Grand Central postcards. Special thanks to Steve Swirsky, as probably about half of these cards are from his collection. Enjoy!

Sending postcards from Grand Central

Sending postcards from Grand Central

Sending postcards from Grand Central

Sending postcards from Grand Central

Sending postcards from Grand Central

Sending postcards from Grand Central

Sending postcards from Grand Central

Sending postcards from Grand Central

Sending postcards from Grand Central

Sending postcards from Grand Central

Sending postcards from Grand Central

Sending postcards from Grand Central

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Cold Spring


Postcards and tickets from Cold Spring


Views of the tracks and the Hudson Highlands near Cold Spring.

While beautiful views can be found along the entire Hudson Line, there’s something about the upper, un-electrified portion of the line that I find especially attractive. Nestled amongst the Hudson Highlands, many of the stations we’ve featured, like Breakneck Ridge and Manitou, offer hikes with wonderful views of both the mountains and the river. Today’s Tuesday Tour takes us to Cold Spring, just less than 53 miles from Grand Central. Unlike the aforementioned stations, Cold Spring is unique in that it offers both a charming downtown area with shops and restaurants, as well as hikes with beautiful views. The trail to hike up Mount Taurus (visible in one of the postcards above) is less than a mile walk from the train station. And if you’re not into the whole hiking thing, you could probably spend the day at the various Main Street shops, or the local Putnam History Museum. In other words, if you’re looking for a cool place accessible by Metro-North, Cold Spring would certainly be a nice pick.


Civil war era station at Cold Spring, and the brick station it was replaced with in 1884.

As one would expect from such a charming downtown area, the original Cold Spring station still stands, though it is not in use for any railroad purposes. Instead the station is home to the aptly named Cold Spring Depot restaurant. Built in 1884, the historic brick station replaced an earlier wooden one built at that site. The station used by Metro-North is south of the historic station and village area, though the two are connected via pathways.


Some interesting shots near Cold Spring… When we featured Garrison, I failed to mention that both that station and the tracks around Cold Spring were used in the filming of the movie Hello Dolly.

   

A little non-Metro-North action near Cold Spring. First three photos by Mike Foley, fourth by Chris Southwell.

If you happen to make the journey all the way up to Cold Spring, the Metro-North station probably is the least interesting thing you’ll see along the way. Typical of many Hudson Line stations, Cold Spring is composed of two side platforms, connected by an overpass. As previously mentioned, each platform is connected via a pathway to the old station and village area. Besides the usual ticket vending machines, blue trash bins, and wire benches found at most Metro-North stations, there isn’t much else noteworthy here at Cold Spring. It is, however, the gateway to a pretty interesting place, certainly worth visiting, and under an hour and a half from Manhattan.

 
   
  
 
   
 
  
 
   
  

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Grand Central Theatre, and the other sky ceiling


The famous sky ceiling…

Grand Central Terminal’s sky ceiling is world-famous. Even if you’ve never been to the Terminal, you may have at least seen pictures of the gorgeous main concourse. Far fewer people, however, are familiar with the other (albeit much smaller) cerulean and gold sky ceiling also found in Grand Central. Once part of the lobby of the Grand Central Theatre, this other sky painting can be found above the registers in the Grande Harvest Wines shop, next to track 17.

 

The lesser-known sky ceiling

The theatre itself is also not often mentioned, though it was a part of the Terminal from 1937, and lasted about three decades. The 242-seat theatre had an early version of what would now be called stadium-style seating, produced by the Irwin Seating Company (which is still making stadium seating to this day!), and standing room in the back.

Different from the movie theatres we are accustomed to today, the Grand Central Theatre was a newsreel theatre – it played various short bits of news, documentaries, and even cartoons. A theatre of this type was perfect for the Terminal in its day – people waiting for their long distance trains could spend the extra moments until their train in the theatre. All the shorts were played continuously, so you could duck in and out whenever your train schedule required. Above the screen an illuminated clock displayed the time for those people on a schedule.

Advertised as the “most intimate theatre in America” the theatre regularly played every day til midnight. Also included with the theatre was a lounge designed by Tony Sarg. Whether you know his name or not, most New Yorkers – or for that matter Americans – know Sarg for his creations. He designed the first balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, including Felix the Cat, which was introduced in 1927.

 

Grand Central Theatre postcards, from the collection of Steve Swirsky.

For me, the Grand Central Theatre epitomizes the changes that Grand Central has gone through over its 100 years. While the Terminal’s outside has remained for the most part the same, the inside has always morphed to keep pace with society, and what was needed at the time. When prim and proper ladies and gentlemen used Grand Central, there were private waiting rooms staffed by maids where one could change into their best before stepping out to high-society parties. As World Wars I and II were being fought, and soldiers were moving through the station every day, the Terminal hosted a Red Cross kiosk, and one of the balconies was converted into a Service Men’s lounge. And when fancy long-distance trains like the 20th Century Limited were all the rage, you could wait the time until your train departed by watching the newsreels in Grand Central Theatre.

Today, with its mass of commuters, Grand Central boasts the conveniences associated with that demographic. You can buy a book to read, some flowers for someone special, a cheesecake to go, or even a beer for the train ride home. I don’t think that Grand Central Theatre would really work today – and I don’t think that Grand Central Market would have worked in the past. While some of our monuments have fallen into disuse and are merely tourist attractions, Grand Central is not just a historical monument – it has remained a relevant part of our lives, partially because of these minor changes. But Grand Central Terminal’s fundamental purpose has not changed – it is still a wonderful example of a train terminal – and definitive proof that a historical building can still be functional and pertinent one hundred years later.

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