Happy 100th Birthday, Grand Central Station!
February 7, 2013   //   By:   //   Articles, Day Trips, Destinations, Educational Travel, New York City, USA   //   Comments are off

Grand Central Station is one of the most recognized train stations in the world – and a must see location on any trip to New York City. On February 2nd, this iconic building celebrated its 100th birthday and she’s looking pretty good for her age! After its completion in 1913, this landmark quickly became the country’s busiest and most popular train station, which now brings in approximately 21,600,000 visitors annually.

Grand Central is the largest train station in the world, with 44 platforms, 67 tracks, numerous restaurants, shopping and event spaces covering a total area of 48 acres. One popular and well-known meeting spot is the information booth with the four-sided clock on the main concourse. What most visitors don’t know is that there is a spiral staircase hidden in this center column, which leads to the lower level.

Grand Central is full of hidden gems and fun historical facts. For instance, the world’s largest Tiffany clock, measuring 14 feet, can be found at Grand Central’s 42nd Street entrance. Underneath Grand Central is a secret network of underground tracks, steam-pipe tunnels, and storage areas. There is even a train platform with a secret entrance and an elevator straight up to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt is rumored to have used as his private entry into New York City to avoid being bothered by reporters.

And what about the ceiling?  Hidden by coal, diesel and tobacco smoke for decades, the breathtakingly decorated ceiling was uncovered and restored recently. The mural features constellations, as they would have been seen in a medieval night sky, but if you really look, you’ll notice that the stars are backwards. Some say this was a mistake by the artist, Paul Helleu, but the official statement claims that the ceiling shows the stars from God’s point of view. Either way, it is a sight to behold!

Be sure to check out the Whispering Gallery, located on the dining concourse near the famous Oyster Bar & Restaurant. Here, the acoustics of the low ceramic arches can cause a whisper to sound like a shout. Here’s how: two people stand in opposite corners of the large arched entryway, face the corner and whisper. You should be able to hear the other voice as if they were right next to you! This happens because the whisperer’s voice follows the curve of the domed ceiling. The Whispering Gallery is a popular New York City spot for marriage proposals.

Self-guided and expert-guide led tours of Grand Central are available, focusing not only on the architectural highlights of the station, but also providing the real stories about little known secrets, anecdotes, history and archival material. You definitely won’t see Grand Central with the same eyes after taking a tour!

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