Once-doomed, NY's Grand Central turns 100 as celebrated landmark

Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:24am EST
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It made its debut in the heyday of cross-country train travel, faced demolition in the era of the auto, and got a new lease on life with a facelift in its eighth decade.

Now Grand Central Terminal, the doyenne of American train stations, is celebrating its 100th birthday.

Opened on February 2, 1913, when trains were a luxurious means of traveling across America, the iconic New York landmark with its Beaux-Arts facade is an architectural gem, and still one of America's greatest transportation hubs.

It is also the Big Apple's second-most-popular tourist attraction, after Times Square.

"We are among the top 10 most-visited sites in the world," boasted Dan Brucker, manager of Grand Central Tours at Metro-North Railroad, the commuter rail service that operates from Grand Central.

"Every day more than 750,000 people come through Grand Central Terminal - that is the entire population of Alaska that walks through here every day. It is the entire population of the state of North Dakota," he noted.

Many are commuters who arrive on trains every 58 seconds at the peak of the morning rush, pouring onto the terminal's dozens of platforms. Tourists gasp at the vaulted ceiling and sprawling 22,000-square-foot marble concourse, which has doubled as a film set for movies such as "The Fisher King" and "The Cotton Club." And thousands from both groups eat and shop at any of the 103 restaurants and stores.

"There are a lot of beautiful old train stations in this country but none as big, and none as ornate, and none as elevated and well-known as Grand Central," said Gabrielle Shubert, the director of New York Transit Museum.   Continued...

A statue of Mercury sits above the clock over 42nd St. at Grand Central Terminal in New York, January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid