Hi, Molaviajer@s! Today we are going to talk about a very visited place in New York, which is also free to enter and which hides a lot of secrets. Today we bring you the 22 hidden curiosities in Grand Central Terminal in New York. And here is the first one: Did you know that although we often refer to it as a station, it is not? Grand Central is a “terminal” and not a “station”, because here, with the exception of the subway, the trains are not passing through, but begin or end their journey. Does this post look good with curiosities of Grand Central or not? Well, let’s go for more:
Index of Contents
Grand Central Terminal: The building
Before you even enter, three Greek Gods representing the virtues of the railway will welcome you (and the time!). More or less here on 42nd Street, a huge Indiana limestone sculpture 15m high and 18m wide shows Mercury as a symbol of speed, Hercules by force and Minerva by intellect.
Who gives the time? Of course, a huge Tiffany clock tells New Yorkers and tourists what time it is. Did you know that they say it’s the biggest in the world that Tiffany has ever made, almost 4m in diameter?
Once inside the building, let’s say that in Grand Central Terminal there are usually 3 levels to visit (then we will see that there are some more, for the more PROS New Yorkers who want to know each and every one of the 22 curiosities)
-The floor at street level, through which you can access the balconies that give visibility of the entire courtyard and the incredible roof of the station.
-The ground floor, from where you buy your tickets or access the platforms. It also has several shops and the mythical central information booth, “crowned” by an imposing clock that we will talk about later.
-A floor on a lower level where there are plenty of restaurants to make waiting for passengers more enjoyable until their train leaves.
Well, spread over these 3 floors, there are several curiosities of Grand Central that we are going to help you discover.
The balconies of Grand Central:
You’ve seen Tiffany’s watch, the sculpture on the door… Now it’s time to come in, right? Well, we warn you to be prepared, because when you enter Grand Central, we are convinced that you are going to practice a floor-wall-ceiling head rotation that will leave you with your mouth open.
Inevitably, we bet that your eyes will go to the roof of the station… And that is one of the most photographed details, since it represents a work called “The sky by roof”. You will see 12 constellations, with 2500 stars painted with gold leaf, 59 of which are illuminated with LED lights. And all on a beautiful turquoise-water colour. But we came here to talk about curiosities, right? Well, it’s a beautiful work that at the time was criticized for one thing, and that is that what is painted on the ceiling is a mirror image that should have been projected at first … Can you imagine? Well, the answer of the artists to that question was that on the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal, was represented the point of view of God looking at the sky from the earth instead of above it … What do you think? Do we accept the excuse?
After admiring and taking a thousand pictures of the ceiling, you’ll have to go downstairs. You will see that there are two main branches, one to the east and one to the west. They may look the same to you, but they’re not quite the same. They’re inspired by the steps of the Paris opera house and… Do you know you’re standing on pink marble from a Tennessee quarry? Although it may seem that they were built at the same time, there are several years of difference between one and the other, and although we are not going to measure them, Grand Central Terminal assures that the east staircase is 2.5 cm less high than the west one and the truth is that its decorations are a little more dull.
From the staircase this may call your attention to one thing: and that is that there is an Apple store, which invites you to enter. It’s not the kind of shop that is open 24 hours a day, like its big sister on 5th Avenue, but every day it receives a lot of visitors: tourists and customers.
Curiosities of the ground floor of Grand Central Terminal
There is no point in being photographed, and this plant also houses a lot of Grand Central Terminal’s curiosities…
One of the key points of the station is the information point located in the center of the station. It answers an average of 1000 questions a day and if you look inside, you can sense something like a closet? Well, it’s not what it looks like, but rather a series of stairs that connect this information point with the one on the lower level. Too bad you can’t visit it.
If the information stand does not attract your attention, perhaps the clock on it does. A hangout for many New Yorkers, it’s valued at $20 million. More punctual than British, it is controlled by the atomic clock at the Naval Observatory in Bethesda, Maryland, and they say that for it to slow down by a single second, 20 billion years would have to pass.
On it you can see an acorn and oak leaves (as in many other points of the season). This, by itself, would not mean anything, right? But it turns out that these were the symbols representing the Vanderbilt family, who took over not only the control of the railway system, but also financed the creation of Grand Central. So it makes sense now, doesn’t it? Surely, now that you know the detail, you can identify it in other places, like at the ticket windows, where they are also, or some other that we let you discover for yourselves.
Another of the things we like best about Grand Central Terminal are its characteristic windows. We encourage you to admire them for a while. When you least expect it, the surprise will be there, because you might see people walking inside the windows. This is because these windows are made up of two glass walls and in between there are walkways through which the station workers themselves sometimes pass. The pity is that they are not open to the public, or it would be a real madness!
Another curious detail is that during the Second World War, the windows of Grand Central Terminal were painted black, to prevent the light of the building from being seen from the outside so that it would not be an easy target for bombing. Don’t tell me that these curiosities of New York’s Grand Central are not cool!
And since you’re looking at the ceiling, look, about track 30, on the ceiling. You’ll see a rectangle on the ceiling that’s much blacker than the rest. Where does this color come from? They say it comes from soot, and from tobacco smoke when smoking was allowed inside, and from other pollution, and it seems that this beautiful ceiling used to look quite dark… So dark that they had to clean it up to be able to appreciate it as we see it now, but they wanted to leave that little bit uncleaned, to remind us how it would have looked if it had not been for the renovation. And by the way, if you smoke, it can be a good motivation to stop.
Besides the main hall, Grand Central Terminal has others, and each one hides a secret.
For example, there’s the Biltmore Room, or kissing gallery. Why did he get this nickname? Because he witnessed numerous displays of affection from people who said goodbye or met again after his travels.
But in a place like this, you couldn’t miss the Vanderbilt Room. It was the main waiting room for many years, but now it is mainly used for special events (at Christmas it hosts the Grand Central Christmas market). Look at their lamps… They are the originals of the station, they are 3 m wide and weigh just over a ton. When at one point they decided to clean them, they discovered that they were not made of bronze as they thought, but of gold-plated nickel. Each one of them has 132 light bulbs accompanied, of course, by their corresponding oak leaves.
Two other main points of this plant are the Grand Central Market and the Great Northern Food Hall. In both you will find food stands, the first one being more of a “neighbourhood market” but impressive, both for the genre and for the incredible lamp that adorns its entrance on Lexington Avenue, and the second one more of a prepared food style. We recommend visiting them, especially the market, which is one of the best kept curiosities in Grand Central Terminal.
If you also like the theme of transportation, or want to buy very New York merchandising, stop by the small branch of the New York Museum of Transportation in Grand Central Terminal. There you will be able to see some of their exhibitions for free, or even see the model they put together for Christmas, in which New York and trains are the main protagonists.
Grand Central’s Lower Level Curiosities
It seems like you can’t get any more out of this station, can you? Well, it can… We encourage you to look for the ramps to go down to the lower level. Did you know that this was one of the first stations to incorporate ramps? This made it much easier to transport passengers with mobility difficulties or with a lot of luggage to carry.
Through them you can reach the “gallery of whispers”, next to the Oyster bar restaurant, one of the oldest in New York. Well, both this restaurant and its entrance have a vaulted ceiling configuration, which ends in some columns. This is the work of Rafael Guastavino, a Valencian architect. Curious, isn’t it? Well, more curious is the effect that they have, and that is that they allow that if a person stands next to a column and another one stands on the opposite one, they can tell each other any kind of secret perfectly speaking to the corner and without the need to shout.
If you look through the windows of the restaurant, its ceiling is similar to that of the gallery, but the Oyster bar is so elegant that it doesn’t invite you to do sound checks in its halls, better to leave them for the exit… Ah! And the star dish… is the oysters, of course.
If you’ve been to a restaurant and have been hungry but your budget doesn’t allow for oysters, continue down to the -1 floor. There, Grand Central Terminal has a pretty big food hall where you won’t be short of options to eat: burritos, salads, Shake Shack (one of our favorite New York burgers) and other burgers… It’s said that more than 10,000 people eat here every day! You may have guessed it by now, but it’s worth mentioning that Grand Central Terminal has public restrooms, a few of them, located on this floor.
Grand Central’s curiosities for New York PROS
If you do not want to leave Grand Central Terminal without seeing all its corners, here are two of the best kept curiosities of the station. To reach them, you will have to go to an elevator that is located next to the ramp that goes to the lower level, westward, towards 43rd Street.
Once in the elevator, there are several options, we will keep the two that complete this list of the 22 curiosities of Grand Central in New York:
The first is to play a doubles match on one of the imposing tennis courts hidden in Grand Central Terminal. They are on the 4th floor and we don’t know what will be more difficult, whether to find a partner for the match, or to pay the $315 per hour during rush hour! There are other cheaper slots, but not much… $80 is the minimum to pay for an hour’s rent.
And after the game, who doesn’t feel like a drink? In that case, you can go into the Campbell apartment, it’s on the B floor. What you now see transformed into a stylish bar, was once the apartment of John Campbell, one of the directors of Grand Central, which had the same to relax or enjoy with his friends of a relaxed time. Luckily it is now public and we can all see it. Of course, the drinks are priced in New York.
Well Molaviajer@s, we hope you liked this post with the 22 hidden curiosities of Grand Central Terminal in New York. If so, another day we will tell you the story of it, which has gone through a thousand and one vicissitudes! You know that if you have any doubt, we are here to help you.
The 22 hidden curiosities at Grand Central in New York was last modified: March 28th, 2020 by MolaViajar