NYC's Grand Central Station is special for so many reasons. First of all, it’s located in one of the most iconic parts of New York, Manhattan. The city’s historical buildings like Empire State Building, Central Park, and Rockefeller Center are at a walking distance from the station.
On top of that, the Grand Central Station is huge – it covers an area of over 48 acres, with a total of 44 platforms situated on two underground levels. There isn’t another station with such a high number of platforms anywhere else in the world.
Still, what makes the Grand Central Station really unique is its amazing history. Since it was constructed more than a century ago, it played a pivotal role in the growth of the largest city in the United States.
How It All Began?
Before the construction of NYC’s Grand Central Station, there was the Grand Central Terminal at the very same spot. This building was constructed in 1871 by a man called Cornelius Vanderbilt, who, at the time, was one of the wealthiest men in America. He had earned his fortune through a shipping business, so it’s not surprising the fact that he decided to invest some of his money into the construction of a train station.
The number of passengers quickly grew to the point that the station needed expansion. That’s why in 1899, a much larger building was added to the site. Unfortunately, in those days, people didn’t care so much about health and safety, so the station was a pretty dangerous place for the passengers. Although no serious accidents happened for almost three decades since the construction of the original terminal, a huge disaster happened in 1902.
What happened is that two trains collided at full speed, killing 17 and injuring almost 40 people. That event prompted the city officials to close the station permanently. In fact, it took only a couple of months before the station was demolished completely.
The Construction of the Grand Central Station
Obviously, such a big city as New York couldn’t have done without a proper train station in the middle of its business district. That’s why the construction of a new station started soon after the old one was demolished.
On February 2, 1913, the new Grand Central Station was finally finished. It was Sunday when the grand opening happened, which attracted over 150,000 people to come to this part of Manhattan. It’s needless to say that it was love at the first sight.
As soon as they saw the impressive Beaux Arts structure with a star-spangled ceiling and a grandiose staircase made of marble, everyone knew that the Grand Central Station was going to become one of the iconic monuments of New York City.
The Proposed Demolition of the Station in 1967
The station was owned by Penn Central, a railroad conglomerate that saw massive drops in profits in the post-WWII years. The reason was simple – New Yorkers started using planes for long trips. Those were the years when NYC’s largest airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, was opened. In turn, this means that the Grand Central Station was becoming almost completely obsolete.
This made the owners of the station decide on demolishing it and constructing a high-rise building on its site. But, at that point, the station has already become one of the city’s most iconic buildings, so a massive campaign against its demolition ensued.
What followed were years of legal battle between Penn Central and the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Obviously, the campaigners won, but that meant that the station had to undergo massive changes in order to become profitable again.
The Return to the Former Glory
When Metro-North took over the station in 1994, the company started with big renovations in order to bring it back its old glory. Soon afterwards, the station became one of the favorite sports of New Yorkers, including those who use it for commuting, as well as those who come here to admire the building itself.
Furthermore, the building today is the home to many art galleries, bars, and restaurants. There are also more than 50 shops housed in the Grand Central Station. All of this means that paying it a visit on your NYC adventure is a must.
Not only can you use it to get from one part of the city to another, but the Grand Central Station will provide you with experiences you’ll never forget. One of those is talking to your friends via the whispering wall.
The Whispering Wall
The so-called “whispering wall” is a part of the station’s dining concourse, next to the iconic Oyster Bar & Restaurant. What makes it so special is that the acoustics of the ceramic arches enable you to talk to a person located on the other side of the arch, even if you’re whispering. For that reason, the whispering wall of the Grand Central Station is a super-popular spot for marriage proposals.
According to experts, the reason why this pretty peculiar effect happens is that the domed ceiling takes your voice across this portion of the station without any disturbances. As a result, the voice can travel for many yards without its volume going down.
The Grand Central Kissing Room
Another attraction of the Grand Central station is the Biltmore Room, or how it’s commonly called the kissing room. Its story goes back to the 1930s, when this was the arrival place of the trains from the West Coast of the United States.
The passengers of the famous 20th Century Limited train would be greeted by their friends and family in this room, accompanied with hugs and kisses, which earned the room its nickname, the kissing room, which has stuck even up to this day.
Other Grand Central Station Facts for History-Buffs
The history of the 20th century New York is inseparable from the history of Manhattan and its main train station. Not only has the station been an important factor for the transportation system of this city, but it’s also been one of its main symbols. This is why it’s not a surprise that Nazi spies tried to bomb it during the World War Two. Luckily, American agents spot them on time and prevented a disaster.
There are so many other interesting stories about the station, many of which you can find on the internet. However, the best way to get acquainted with the glory of the Grand Central Station is to pay it a visit in person.