A 100th anniversary is an important event. It’s even more special for a building in New York City. I’ve passed through Grand Central Terminal many times, and like so many others here I never realized that it was almost 100 years old. There were plans to tear down the terminal as far back as 1954.
Perhaps, I took for it granted when I’d use the facility for commuting on the trains or making a quick stop for groceries or the bakery shop at the Grand Central Market. I’ve never stopped to see the beauty and the history behind this splendid architecture. Oftentimes, I even referred to the place incorrectly as Grand Central ‘Station’ instead of Terminal.
I was on a train one day recently, and noticed a poster announcing the 100th anniversary celebration for the Grand Central Terminal. At that moment I knew I wanted to get to know more about this architectural landmark so I could share the information with friends and relatives coming here to visit. So, I took an audio tour and started my adventure in the building. The audio tours have 2 options – a full tour, and an abbreviated tour that takes less time. They’re called the local tour and the express tour – just like riding a train! It took me almost 2 hours on the full tour because I repeated some of the narration in a few spots. Most people might already be familiar with the grand exterior sculptures of the Roman Gods Mercury, Hercules and Goddess Minerva on the front of the building, but I wonder how much many know about the details inside the terminal.
There are a few interesting findings that I’d like to share in this blog. The reason being, I would like you to take a few moments to experience the terminal yourself if you happen to be in the neighborhood. Most everyone here know about the famous clock in the middle of the grand concourse. But did you know it’s also the most accurate clock in all of New York City? And have you noticed the acorn on top of the clock? You can find acorns and oak tree leaves in many fixtures in the terminal such as the ticket window bars, staircases, etc., as they are symbols of the Vanderbilt family coat of arms. The Vanderbilts built and owned the terminal, and their family motto is, “Great Oaks from Tiny Acorns Grow.”
The next time I walk on these 2 grand staircases I hope they can tell me stories. I’ve been climbing both the West Side Grand Staircase to exit the building and the East Side Staircase to The Apple Store, and I thought they both looked the same until I listened to the narrative that noted they actually have different fixtures and were built in different eras. The West Side Grand Staircase was built in 1913 but the East Side was built in 1990. The East Side Staircase is also one inch narrower than the West Side Staircase.
The other piece of art that I really want to share is the olive tree lighting in the Grand Central Market in the terminal. I know there are so many delicacies and bakeries in the market that attracts our eyes to look and sample them at eye-level, but remember to look up near the exit of the market because you will see a Hindu and Greek lore-inspired olive tree chandelier – Sirshasana – hanging upside down on the ceiling. Shirshasana is also the headstand posture in yoga.
There are many other interesting hidden features in the building, but I really hope you can take some time to find them out yourself with a visit to the terminal. But if you are far, far away, I found a video posted by Christopher Bagnall that you might be able to enjoy !
Hidden History with Brian Unger, courtesy from Christopher Bagnall.