Roll out the red carpet

My friend Penny gives “good tour”!  She’s added Grand Central Terminal to her repertoire, and if you’re interested in going on one of her Municipal Arts Society tours, let me know, and I’ll connect you two.

Grand Central, well, it’s just grand.  Mr. Vanderbilt, as with everything he built, didn’t skimp.  This Beaux Arts building is full of his symbol, the acorn–from little seeds, grow big trees–and secrets, according to Penny.  She shared some of those secrets:  the dirtiest place in New York, the two most romantic places in New York, Track 61 as FDR’s supposedly private track in the adjoining Wadlorf-Astoria, the secret staircase in the information booth, and and Grand Central’s space age connection.

Did you know that the information desk clock where we all meet all the time, that clock is worth $10-20 million?  It’s made out of solid opal!

All those light bulbs, some 35,000 exposed bulbs, celebrate electricity.  I’m sure ConEd is thrilled, too!  See more pictures in the slide show below.

I loved that Penny talked about the less obvious aspects of the architecture.  Sure, there’s that magnificent statue of Mercury, Hercules, and Minerva atop the station, and the eagle perched off to the side.  And there’s the carved sculptural program both inside and out.  But I loved the explanation of the inclines (the station has no stairs).

Coming in, we’re on top of the world, as if a queen on a pedestal, then the incline down helps us hurry to our train.  On the way out of the station, the incline up encourages us to slow down before entering the bustle of New York City.

Everyone loves the Whispering Gallery, and on this tour, I got to try it out.  I turned into the corner of the barrel-vaulted space and said my name to the woman way on the other said of the space.  Our conversation was muffled, but understandable.  Sort of like talking cell phone to cell phone.  Weird and amazing and delightful.

Apparently, a marriage proposal happens there everyday, so if your partner takes you there and tells you to face the corner, you can probably anticipate what comes next.  This photo is of the vaulted tiling in the Whispering Gallery which I think is exquisite.







The old shoe shine stand is still set up, not far from where the Twentieth Century Train came in to the Terminal.  The red carpet was rolled out for its Hollywood stars and other train-riding celebrities.

In 1913, Grand Central opened, so in just a few short weeks, we can celebrate the centennial of this grand old place, by rolling out the red carpet for Grand Central!




P.S. Kudos to Penny for keeping her cool as a “Free Tibet” protest parade marched from the Chinese Embassy at 42nd and 12th, all the way to Grand Central, right past us, and beyond.

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