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Friday Arts Feature - Grand Central Station

by British Awakening – 22 Nov 2019

Grand Central Station, properly known as Grand Central Terminal, stands on 42nd Street and Park Avenue in mid-town Manhattan. Grand Central Station is the most beautiful railway station in the world, if you don’t agree then please note – there is nothing you can do or say that is going to alter that simple fact.

Grand Central is an outstanding example of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture – a style that New York has been blessed with. The station itself was built by the New York Central Railroad and opened in 1913 – although it was built on the footprint of two earlier (but less beautiful stations). Despite its stunning architecture the inspiration for Grand Central arguably came from William J. Wilgus, a Civil Engineer who rose through the ranks to become Vice President of New York Central Railroad. An outstanding engineer in his own right, Wilgus devised the scheme that separated intercity and commuter passengers, the original plans designed by Reed and Stem, an American architectural firm, this incorporated some of the designs of the Beaux-Arts architect Whitney Warren.

Currently Grand Central has a footprint of 48 acres (19 hectares) and has 44 platforms (more than any other station in the world). The platforms are all below ground, above them sits the majestic main concourse which itself sits under a semi cylindrical ceiling decorated with an elaborate mural of constellations illuminated by ten Beaux-Arts chandeliers. Any visitor to the main concourse would ordinarily descend a marble staircase to be drawn to the central information booth topped by the iconic four faced brass clock – a clock with an accuracy of a billionth of a second since it is set to the U.S. Navy’s Observatory Atomic Clock.

Even without my description, most of us have a certain familiarity with the station since it features in so many famous movies. A personal favourite being the Grand Central Dance Scene from the Robin Williams movie the Fisher King:

Now, a little known fact, Grand Central Station is in the world’s top ten most visited attractions with over 20 million non-passengers visiting each year. I was fortunate enough to be one last October and was very much struck by the superb job that has been done in bringing Grand Central back to its former glories. Finding myself wandering around the Graybar passage on a Friday night with its bars and fine food outlets it was all too easy to forget you were in a railway station, so magical is the experience.

Grand Central is where great engineering vision meets exquisite architecture, it is little surprise that so many visit the place, it is entirely captivating, it makes you want to stay around and watch the human race. Every now and then the engineers and the architects get it absolutely right; Grand Central is the uber example of that sweet spot where function, form and beauty all coincide.

Well, if you have never been to Grand Central, I hope I have convinced you to go! Enjoy your weekend and I leave you with one of my all-time favourite songs, Stepping Out by Joe Jackson – a song inspired by New York.

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