Grand Central – Things to See
Grand Central is one of New York’s most iconic landmarks, and a go to destination for so much more than to catch a train. I love to walk through it any time I am walking past the area, or it is remotely even in the way of my walk someplace.
There is much to marvel at in Grand Central, and here are a few of my favorite things that I have learnt about it over the years.
Grand Central Windows are Walkways for Employees
The large windows on two sides of Grand Central are actually walkways that employees use to get from one end to the other without needing to deal with the commuters or tourists! Here are a couple of videos I have taken of people walking through the windows, which I hope I get to do at least once.
This video actually has two people walking at different levels from right to left. The iconic opal Grand Central Clock above the information booth is in view in the videos.
This video has a person walking at the lowest level in the windows, and you can see them walk from left to right in it.
The Ceiling is Painted Backwards
It is easy to tell the commuters from the tourists in Grand Central based on where they are looking – commuters are focused on the schedules, while tourists (such as me) are at usually transfixed by the sight of the ceiling, which has 12 constellations with 2500 stars painted on it. A little known fact is that the ceiling is painted backwards, which Cornelius Vanderbilt, as the original founder, claimed was so the zodiac could be viewed from a divine perspective rather than a human one.
Dirty Brick in the Grand Central Ceiling
If you look closely at the area near the Cancer – Crab – in the ceiling, which is at the bottom left section in the picture above, there is a dirty brick which was left as is to show how dirty the ceiling was before it was cleaned in the 1990s. This ‘dirt’ was 70% caused by nicotine and tar from the time that smoking was allowed indoors!!
Clock on the Information Booth
The clock on the information booth is made of opal. and is estimated to be worth $20 million!!!
Hidden Stairwell in the Information Booth
While we’re on the information booth, I was fascinated to learn that the pillar inside the information booth is actually a staircase that employees use to go to the lower level of Grand Central! In the picture on the left below, you can see what it usually looks like all the time, and on the right is the one time I actually saw it open in all the times I have visited Grand Central.
Grand Central Whispering Gallery
The low arches as you head to the lower level at Grand Central actually have a Whispering Gallery, where you can whisper something in one corner, which can be heard by someone at the opposite corner. It really is fun to do this, and yes I am speaking from experience.
Exposed Light Bulbs
I had never noticed this till I heard about it, and it is all I see now that I am in the know – every single light bulb in Grand Central is bare and exposed! The Vanderbilts as the founders of Grand Central wanted to show off this new invention called electricity when Grand Central was built.
Outside Grand Central is a Tiffany Clock that is the largest Tiffany Glass in the world with a diameter of fourteen feet, and is adorned with the Greek Gods Mercury for speed, Hercules for strength, and Minerva for intellect.
Mural in the Graybar Passage
The Graybar Passage in Grand Central has a fantastic mural by Edward Trumbull with a depiction of trains and skyscrapers. Trumbull is well known in New York for his mural in the Chrysler Building lobby, and here’s another one that most people don’t even know exists in plain sight if you know where to look for it.
Rats at the Graybar Passage Entrance
Speaking of the Graybar Passage, one of the interesting features at its entrance on Lexington Avenue is rat sculptures on the cables outside made to look like they are trying to get in, and are thwarted by conical structures at the top. I understand these are designed to resemble mooring lines of a ship, though at the very top the design looks like heads of rats that did manage to get in after all.
Mural inside a Wine Store
There’s a mural inside a wine store next to Track 17, which is said to have been rediscovered during the Grand Central renovation. This is originally a movie theater.
And, as I added here, there was a private apartment at Grand Central which is now an easily accessible bar called The Campbell. It took me too long to find this one out! And if you are around in January, there is usually an annual squash Tournament of Champions in Vanderbilt Hall.