Today marks a momentous occasion for one of New York City’s most iconic tourist attractions: the Grand Central Terminal Turns 100. If you’ve never had the privilege of walking through the main concourse, it may seem ridiculous that so many people are excited about the anniversary of a train station. However, if you have journeyed through the terminal then you know perfectly well why this is a big deal.
When I was in the midst of my undergrad studies, my friends and I had come to the realization that we lived so close to the Metro-North, there was no reason why we wouldn’t just hop on a train and go to the city for the night. So on special occasions, like birthdays and what have you, we would go to the city. The only problem was missing that last train to Poughkeepsie. Guess what? There isn’t another one until after 6:00 A.M. So Grand Central Terminal would provide floor space and shelter for us all until we could catch that first morning train back home. As long as we didn’t cause problems, the NYPD was nice to us and seemed to get a good laugh at the amateurs sitting on the floor, napping on each other’s shoulders.
Despite the general rushing and whizzing of daily commuters, the concourse is not only gorgeous, adorned with its iconic zodiac ceiling and $10 million dollar opal-faced clock, but is full of all kinds of historical tidbits that add to its value as a vitally important New York City landmark. The Vanderbilts, one of America’s most famous family dynasties, owned the station for a time, and because of the family’s symbols of acorns and oaks, a leaf and acorn design can be found carved in stone throughout the terminal. I also learned that the Oyster bar has been there since the terminal opened, and there is a part of the terminal where you can stand in one corner while a friend is in the opposite corner, say something very quietly, and your friend will hear you clear as day. I am pretty sure there was a How I Met Your Mother episode referring to this type of acoustic layout if you don’t believe me.
But one of the coolest things I found out about GCT, is the fact that there is an underground platform with an old rusty train that connects to the Waldorf-Astoria. FDR used the train to get into the hotel undetected, in his wheelchair. The secret platform was also used for an underground party hosted by Andy Warhol. The platform isn’t the only secret location in the building, either. There is also a hidden spiral staircase beneath a trap door in the kiosk below the clock.
Today, in honor of the terminal’s 1913 opening, many of the prices are being returned to 1913 prices. $2 dollar silk scarves, $.10 shoeshines, and $.06 for a loaf of rye bread. That’s happening. As a member of the ZING team, I am so happy that I get to work and live in NYC, where everything has a story and is more than it seems, even the train stations.