Grand Central Terminal still stands as one of New York City’s most beloved landmarks, but it’s history is a wonderful story of creation, decline, and rebirth! Originally built by Cornelius Vanderbilt, GCT (Grand Central Terminal) opened on February 2, 1913. The station replaces an even earlier building, Grand Central Depot which was built in 1881.
Grand Central Terminal still holds many secrets and fun facts that you may not know. So let’s discover some of the secrets right now!
10. Whisper Gallery
Arranged between the Main Concourse and Vanderbilt Hill is an acoustical architectural anomaly in GCT: a whispering gallery. Sound is thrown across the 2,000 ft chamber, “telegraphing” across the surface of the vault and landing in faraway corners. No one knows whether or not it was constructed to produce this amazing acoustic effect!
9. Hidden Bar?!
The Campbell Apartment in GCT serves as a testament to the grandiosity of a totally different era! If dressed appropriately, you can enter the room and enjoy cocktails from the fin de siècle in this virtual museum!
8. Iron Eagles Missing?!
The iron eagles perched at the corners of the building are remnants from Grand Central Station, which is the L shaped predecessor of the GCT. They are very large with wingspans 13 feet wide!
There were about 10 eagles before it was demolished to make way for the new one in 1903, and almost all of them disappeared after its destruction. 9 have been located across the state of New York. Some were auctioned off to private estates, found in backyards, or at trains stations!
7. World’s Largest Tiffany Clock
The statue “Transportation” on the exterior of GCT was designed by French sculptor Jules-Felix Couran. It took the builders 7 years to construct this massive sculpture of the Greek gods. It is 48 feet high and weighs 1500 tons! The Tiffany clock is the largest in the world measuring at 13 feet in diameter and took 12 years to restore!
6. Hidden brick, the anti smoking ad
If you’re in the Main Concourse in GCT, you will spot the giant Cancer zodiac, the crab, on the ceiling, and you’ll find a small dark patch of brick. The brick shows what the stations ceiling looked like before it was cleaned during the restoration project in 1998. Can you believe that 70% of nicotine and tar is what caused the brick to be so filthy?! Crazy but true!
5. Track 61 Underneath Grand Central Terminal
There is one track that sits abandoned in the midst of the busiest terminal in the world! Track 61, or the Waldorf Astoria track was originally built for freight and as a loading platform for a powerhouse that was above it.
After decommissioned, it served as a private railroad station, a covert way for distinguished guests of the Waldorf Astoria Luxury Hotel to enter and exit the city. This track is famously thought to have transported Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to hide that he was wheelchair bound as a result of polio. Today the track still provides secret means of transportation; it is kept up and running whenever the President visits town.
A hidden room known as M42 does not appear on a map or blueprint of GCT. It was only acknowledged in the late 1980s and its exact location is still classified information. This part of the basement also played an important private role in World War 2; it was so secret that you risked being shot if you went down there!
3. Largest basement in New York City
The basement covers 49 acres, from 42 to 97th street! The entire City Hall could fit into its depth with a comfortable amount of room to spare!
2. Play tennis in GCT
A space called the Annex has a tennis court that is accessible to the public (as long as you can get a reservation). It was originally installed by a Hungarian immigrant Graz A. Gazdag in the 1960s!
1. The ceiling of GCT is BACKWARDS?!
The painting of the constellations on the ceiling of the Main Concourse is backwards! No one knows for sure how the mix up happened. But the Vanderbilt family claimed that it was no accident and that the zodiac was intended to be viewed from a divine perspective, rather than a human one.
HERE’S A BONUS SECRET!
Grand Central Theatre, opened in 1937 that showed news reels, shorts, and cartoons. The 242-seat theater operated for 3 decades and was then renovated for retail. Today it’s the Grande Harvest Wine Shop next to Track 17!
So if you’re ever in Grand Central Terminal, see if you can find these hidden secrets! 😊