A Few Fun Facts from Sam Roberts’ Grand Central

Yesterday I reviewed Sam Roberts’ Grand Central: How a Station Transformed America and it was so filled with fun facts about the station and its preservation that I couldn’t resist sharing a few of my favorites!

  1. Winston Churchill’s maternal grandfather, Leonard Jerome, was Cornelius Vanderbilt’s stockbroker.
  2. The English language didn’t include the word ramp until Grand Central was built.  The station was the first to be virtually stair-less. The ramps in the station were perfectly calculated to speed travelers (from the elderly to toddlers and their baggage) along. The use of the word ramp, probably comes from rampart.
  3. It is home to the largest Tiffany stained glass clock in the world.
  4. The number IV on the clock is a door that overlooks Park Avenue when opened.


    Tiffany and Co. Clock. Image via Corbis Images

  5. The constellations painted on the ceiling of the grand concourse are backward. Station officials cover the blunder by claiming the celestial mural represents God’s view.
  6. There is a five-inch-diameter hole dating to 1957 in the ceiling of the Main Concourse just above the constellation Pisces.  It was cut to accommodate a cable installed to keep a five-ton Redstone missile displayed during the Cold War from tipping over. It was preserved during the restoration.
  7. In the northwest corner of the Main Concourse ceiling there is a symmetrical dark patch. Until the 1990s, the entire ceiling was darkened from decades of tobacco and nicotine residue. During the renovation, the patch was left as a “before and after.” The ceiling was in such good condition after the cleaning, only a few gallons of paint were needed to get it in tip-top shape.

    Canning Studios Pegasus Grand Central

    Canning Studios conserved and cleaned the iconic ceiling at Grand Central Station, putting new life into Pegasus’ wings. Image via Traditional Building

  8. It is home to the largest sculptural grouping in the world.
  9. You can say, “It’s like Grand Central Station in here” anywhere in the world and everyone will know you mean that its chaotic and frenetic scene.
  10. In an act of irony (or hypocrisy?) an East Staircase that had been nixed from the original station plan was constructed, even though the decade long court battle won by preservationists in the 70s centered around the addition of an office tower atop the station – even though one had initially been planned for the station (supports for the tower were incorporated in the building during construction, but were ultimately not needed when the plan was abandoned).


    New East Staircase constructed with marble from original Tennessee quarry. (The East Balcony is also home to the Apple Store). Image via MacSpoilers

  11. To clean dirt from the walls of the terminal, they were painted with plastic. The plastic was then carefully peeled away, taking the the dirt and grime with it.
  12. There is a secret platform known by station employees as Track 61 that is used by VIPs and presidents (including FDR and George W. Bush).
  13. Acorns and oak leaves are Vanderbilt family emblems. They decorate some of the terminal’s light fixtures and friezes.
  14. The civil rights movement was nurtured at Grand Central, through A. Philip Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
  15. The original quarry in Tennessee was located and reopened specifically to provide matching stone to replace damaged stone and for the new East Staircase during restoration. Each piece of new stone is labeled with its installation date and the fact that it was not a part of the original Terminal building.


    Acorns and oak leave. Image via newyork.com


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