04 March 2013

Grand Central Celebration

At 12:01 am on February 2, 1913, Grand Central Terminal (commonly referred to as Grand Central Station) officially opened its doors. Last month I stopped by for the official start of this year's celebration of the station's centennial.

Normally when I take the train, it’s Amtrak to Boston or Washington, DC, which leaves from the God-awful Penn Station. The place resembles a giant box of concrete and feels like a prison. In comparison, the Beaux-Arts designed Grand Central is a jewel of a train station. With a marble staircase based on the Paris Opera House, a famed opal and brass clock, and a ceiling painted with zodiac constellations and 2,500 stars by Paul Helleu, the station is a grand tribute to the age in which it was built.

After its opening, Grand Central became the busiest station in the country and an iconic image of the city. Yet time was not kind. Decades later the place was in decay, with rusting steel and its prized ceiling black from tobacco smoke. By 1975 plans were proposed for the station's demolition. In stepped Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who successfully led the charge along with other New Yorkers to save Grand Central. Finally in the 1990s, after extensive work, the station was restored to its former glory.

The celebrations  kicked off on February 1 with a re-dedication ceremony featuring special guest speakers like Caroline Kennedy and former Mets player Keith Hernandez. Throughout the day there were musical performances and dancing. Many of the station's vendors sold items for 1913 prices like a cup of coffee for $.05 or oysters for $.13 (I tried to grab a loaf of rye for $.06 but they had run out). I didn’t stay very long but it was nice to be reminded of the beauty that exists in this city and to be part of the celebration.

Other events are continuing throughout the year. For more information, visit here.

Photos by Michele.

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