Grand Central Station, despite all the opposition it received from its owner, The Penn Central Railroad, is and will remain a landmark in New York.
Beautifully conceived by William J. Wilgus as a daring idea after a car crash in 1902 (when the building was a depot), in 1913 it became the monumental building that we still know today.
Weegee, [Accident on upper roadway of Grand Central Station, New York], 1944 (112.1982)
The new terminal, designed to improve air quality and reduce fumes, soot, and cinder, was powered by electricity. Designed by Reed and Stern, this modern hub divides the modes of transport into four different traffic zones and levels: pedestrian, automobile, train, and subway.
The pediment and the facade are the result of the classical, imposing, and grand work of the architect Whitney Warren, from the firm Warren & Wetmore.
It is a building that, like an ancient ruin, contains a lot of history and memories. Nowadays more than a hundred photos are online on the website of The Museum of the City of New York. The Library of Congress has more than one hundred pictures and drawings of Grand Central online. Tons of ink has already been spilled on this traffic “shell.” If you have enough time to discover it, you’ll be surprised by its history, such as Stanley Kubrick photographing Bob Elson interviewing tycoons for the radio show On the Century. The 20th Century Limited was a deluxe passenger train that streamed nightly from New York to Chicago. The Biltmore Room was the arrival point for passengers of luxury trains and was known also as the Kissing Room.
Grand Central Station hides secrets, surprises, and historical delights. Its walls disclose secrets to lovers. The “whispering gallery,” located on the Grand Central Terminal dining concourse near the famous Oyster Bar & Restaurant, has the same beauty as the interior of an oyster shell: it reflects waves of sound like a precious pearl spreading inside its shell. This audio transmission is only one among many marvels of this system, patented by the Spanish architect and builder Rafael Guastavino. The New York Transit Museum Gallery is another beauty spot in the close Shuttle Passage. It is a New York Transit Museum’s annex located just off the Main Concourse and its magnificent decorated astronomical ceiling.
Mary Cathryn Roth, Alone, from the Grand Central series, March 1999 (134.2003)
I don’t know how many books and movies tell us about the authority and the prestige of this station and its trains. I remember a character in Jonathan Franzen’s book The Corrections: Alfred, the father. His voice was for me a celebration of an age when trains were essential and heroic.