On any given weekday at 9 a.m., the Grand Central Terminal’s Main Concourse bustles with the arrival of rush hour commuters, but this morning was extra packed due to the station’s Centennial Anniversary (and the seductive promise of steep discounts on food and merchandise).
A gala event, titled 100 Years Grand, opened with a re-dedication ceremony featuring appearances by Mayor Bloomberg, Caroline Kennedy (whose mother Jackie Kennedy Onassis was a major advocate for the station’s revitalization in the 1970′s), former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins, actress Cynthia Nixon, and beloved former Met Keith Hernandez. Bloomberg took the opportunity to compare how New York City almost lost Grand Central Terminal in the 1970s, “at that time the whole city was crumbling, and then we elected Ed Koch. And he was a civic savior for our city in desperate times.”
Andrew Favilla, who has worked at Grand Central for 36 years, commented to Gothamist, “I’ve been fortunate enough to see the transformation over the last 30 years here in the building, and it’s absolutely tremendous. When I first got here, it was dimly lit, and it smelled, and nobody wanted to be in here. After the renovation and with the maintenance in the building, it’s become a centerpiece of New York City. it’s a beautiful place to be.”
The ceremony is part of a series of events continuing throughout the day which include food at 1913 prices, a Guinness book of World Records induction as “‘Largest Station by Number of Platforms” and many performers, from an electronic violinist to the the Knicks City Dancers. Perhaps the most adorable were the 100-plus elementary and middle school students who performed several ballroom dances as part of their curriculum in the Dancing Classrooms program.
Here’s a few Grand Central facts you might not know…
God’s View: William K. Vanderbilt commissioned a zodiac painted on the domed ceiling, but muralist Paul Helleu painted it backward and suggested that it portrayed God’s perspective of the universe.
Aw, Shucks: The Oyster Bar, a New York landmark since 1913, opened just three weeks after the station’s debut. The restaurant provided a place for long-distance travelers and commuters to slurp oysters.
Secret Rendezvous: The city’s most famous meeting point — “under the clock at Grand Central” — conceals a spiral staircase used by staff to move between the information booths on the main and lower levels. The clock itself is worth millions.
Acoustic Trickery: Grand Central has a “whispering gallery” on the lower level just outside the Oyster Bar. People can stand in opposite corners and telegraph their voices to each other.
Fake Out: To get you to the track on time, the schedule board moves departure times up by one minute.
Hidden Track: Beneath the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is a hidden platform and railcar built for dignitaries who could privately access the hotel by an elevator. Gen. John Pershing was the first to use the station in 1938. Franklin D. Roosevelt used it to conceal his inability to walk unassisted due to polio.
Have You Seen My Jacket? Riders who lose something on the Metro-North Railroad can report it online; the Lost & Found room returned 13,126 items to their owners in 2011.
Rocket Science: In 1957, NASA displayed a Redstone rocket in the great dome to counter fears of Sputnik. A hole was drilled in the ceiling to tether the tip of the rocket next to the constellation Pisces. It is still visible.
Secret of the Stairs: Which of the two grand marble staircases is original? The ornate acorn and oak leaf carvings of the west staircase — symbols from the Vanderbilt family crest — distinguish the old staircase from the simpler east steps, built in the 1966 restoration.
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