Grand Central Terminal
Monday night after work, I signed up for a Men Event walking tour of Grand Central. The group met at the Pershing Square Café, then headed out and onto 42nd Street. Our guide was Dave Cervini, from the New York Social Network.
Why is Grand Central a terminal and not a station? Because trains start and end in a terminal whereas a station has trains traveling through it on to other destinations. Why was the Biltmore Room once called the “Kissing Room?” Because it is the entrance and exit from a set of tracks once used to move troops during World War II. The room was where lovers and family would say their good-byes–or hellos.
The clock that crowns the Grand Central facade
This is the third Grand Central that was built. The clock is the biggest example of Tiffany glass in the world, being 13 feet around. The six on the face opens to allow adjustments and to peer down onto Park Avenue. The clock is framed with Hercules to the left, Minerva on the right, and Mercury standing above it. Oh, that statue at the front of the building where Park Avenue comes together? That’s Cornelius Vanderbilt, railroad magnet and the prime mover that got Grand Central built.
Fourth Avenue started at 42nd Street and for several city blocks behind Grand Central was the huge, uncovered train yard; there was no Park Avenue here. When it was decided to cover the train yard so that more buildings could be built, the railroad yard slowly disappeared. Once the train yard was completely covered, the new street was named Park Avenue, and the new road went around Grand Central and emptied onto what had been Fourth Avenue, now renamed Park Avenue.
I always wondered why the light fixtures were so ugly—ugly in the sense that the light bulbs were exposed with no covers. In 1913, the electric light bulb was new, and only the rich could afford them, so the new Grand Central had light fixtures displaying this symbol of power (literally and figuratively.)
The faux staircase that leads to the Apple store was not part of the original design. There was no staircase because there was no entrance. It was decided during the restoration in the 1990s to match the Lexington side of the building with the staircase leading up to Vanderbilt Avenue.
The tennis court
There’s a tennis court in Grand Central. When facing the building on 42nd, it’s in the upper left corner. For $275 an hour, anyone can rent the court for however long they want. (Prices drop on Saturday nights to $125 an hour.) This was really funny. Who would have thought that a train station would have a tennis court?
The walkways are behind the decorative window. You can see figures on them
In order to generate revenue, offices were put into the terminal as well as the selling off of the air rights above the building, which is where the Pan Am Building (now Met Life) was built. The offices in Grand Central can be reached by the corridors behind the glass windows. You can sometimes see people walking along those glass corridors.
The information booth
The information booth with the famous clock on top where everyone meets once had no entrance; there’s a circular stairway that leads down to the lower information booth, which is where railroad workers would enter and exit. The enclosure upstairs is more recent.
The terminal clock
And the clock? Southby’s has estimated that it is worth 23 million dollars.
There was a lot of information. Afterwards, some of us had a drink and socialized. It was a great tour, and lots of fun.