The Grand Central Terminal in New York is considered by many a must see attraction when visiting the city. Not only is it regarded as one of America's greatest transportation hubs it is also an International example of restoration and use of a historic building.
Here are 32 interesting facts about the iconic terminal.
1) First things first: it is officially called Grand Central Terminal, and NOT Grand Central Station as we may think. After New York banned all steam locomotives and switched to electrified trains, Grand Central Deport became Grand Central Terminal. As the name implies no trains actually pass through it.
2) Some 180 buildings between 42nd and 50th street were demolished to make way for the 3rd station to be built on 42nd street. This included, three churches, two hospitals and an orphanage.
3) Opened in 1913, the Grand Central Terminal was considered the largest and greatest Railway Terminal on earth for the number of platforms and area it occupies. The terminal is spread over 49 acres, has 44 platforms and 67 tracks.
4) It services on average 75 000 - 100 000 people daily; roughly the entire population of San Francisco. 93 percent of the people that pass through it are college graduates.
5) Construction cost around $2billion.
6) It was declared a New York City Landmark in 1967.
7) On its 100th birthday, 150 000 people walked through the doors. Shops and eateries dropped the prices of their goods as if it were 1913. To give you an idea - a loaf of rye bread cost around 6-cent.
8) On the fourth floor you will find the Vanderbilt Tennis Club, where you can play a game of tennis while you wait for your train. It costs on average $90 - $260 an hour depending on the time of the day and the day of the week.
9) It has the biggest lost and found service in the US. On average the terminal collects 50 000 items per year and according to official statistics returns 80% of the items to the rightful owners. Some of these items include an urn of cremated ashes and a basset hound.
10) It is considered as a retail destination with boutique-type specialty shops, restaurants, cocktail lounges and a gourmet market for commuters and visitors. It is also home to the "O-Bar" (oyster bar) ; one of the terminal's first tenants and today considered one of the grandest restaurants in NYC.
11) Each day, an estimated 10,000 people come into Grand Central to have lunch, and don’t a catch a train at all.
12) It is regarded as a design masterpiece for its Beaux-Arts façade.The 43 meters high celestial ceiling of the main concourse showcases a beautiful astrological mural (worked on by more than 50 people) of the Mediterranean winter sky complete with 2500 stars. The view is upside down, and depicts the sky from God’s perspective. It won't make much sense to you when looking up at it.
13) Over the years the ceiling became covered in grime as a result of commuters cigarette smoke. It took 12 years to clean up this grime and ironically the restoration team left a black patch so we can all appreciate the difference.
14) Throughout the station you will notice acorns and oak leaves on the clocks, carved in stone, and engraved on the light fixtures. These are all symbols of the Vanderbilts - a family who built and owned the terminal for some time. The metaphor "from an acorn a mighty oak shall grow" rings true.
15) The architects of the station created fancy chandeliers each holding 110 light bulbs. A simple task of switching these lightbulbs to flourescents in 2008, saved the city $200,000 each year. It took 6 full time employees to swap out all 4,000 bulbs.
16) The station is home to a number of clocks. The clock on the 42nd St. Façade, has a diameter of 14 feet, and is the worlds largest example of Tiffany glass. Another clock is estimated at a value of $10-20 million because of its four faces made of opal. Outside on the roof, one clock has statues of Hercules, Mercury, and Minerva each weighing 1,5000 tons and measure 66 feet long. This represents mental and moral strength.
17) All clocks (and therefore departure schedules) in the station are fast by 1 min, giving all passages 60 extra seconds to get to their train.
18) In the dining concourse you will find the iconic whispering gallery. Here you can whisper sweet nothings into one corner and whoever stands on the opposite corner can hear everything you say loud and clear. The stone walls and ceiling do a great job of reflecting the sound even if you are 10meters away.
19) The staircases in Grand Central were based on the designs of the Paris Opera House. The western staircase is the original one, and an almost identical one in the eastern side was added during the renovations in 1990.
20) All levels, floors, and platforms within Grand Central can be reached by lifts or ramps.
21) A secret trap door can be found in the kiosk below the clock and leads to a spiral staircase down to the lower level info booth. It also has a massive underground two-story train yard that is hidden from public view.
22) A large American flag has hung in the main concourse since several days after the attacks of 9/11.
23) The attic in the east wing of the terminal once housed an art school called Grand Central School of Art more than 20 years ago. During its peek period it enrolled 900 students.
24) Grand Central Terminal is home to the first ever flash mob. More than 200 people stopped completely still in the middle of the terminal out of the blue. Minutes later, they walked away.
25) A once secret basement, widely referred to as M42, lies under the Terminal, containing converters used to supply electric currents to run the trains from the Terminal. There is a "secret" platform with a concealed entrance to a lift that goes straight up to the Waldorf Hotel. This secret platform was said to to be used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to enter into the hotel unseen.
26) Tightrope walker Philippe Petit danced across a wire stretched over Grand Central's main concourse thirteen years after he tightrope walked between the Twin Towers.
27) September 11th has always been an unlucky day in American history. On the same day in 1976, Croatian nationalists planted a bomb in one of the lockers. It was improperly disarmed, and killed a NYDP officer and injured 30 others.
28) There has been a LEGO replica of the terminal, made of 5,000 bricks and used to stand in the entrance of the terminal.
29) In 1954, there were serious plans to replace Grand Central with an 80-storey tower, taller than the Empire State Building, but thankfully fell through.
30) From 1928, the terminal had its own organist: Mary Lee Read. The day after Pearl Harbour was attacked she played the National Anthem and everyone within the station ground to a halt to listen to it. This resulted in commuters missing their trains.
31) Photographer Frank English holds the title of taking the most photos of Grand Central Terminal than any one else. No surprise here, seeing that he was the official photographer of the terminal.
32) The terminal has been ranked as the sixth most visited tourist attraction in the world.
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