Grand Central Terminal At 100: Station's Original Plans Saw Different Future
Grand Central Terminal may be one of the world's most recognizable structures, but the building most New Yorkers know today was not what the original architects had in mind. NY1's Jill Urban filed the following report.
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It’s one of New York's most magnificent landmarks. With its Beaux Arts design, cavernous corridors, star studded sky and massive marble staircases, Grand Central Terminal is a true symbol of grandeur. As NY1 celebrates its centennial, the station looks back at how the structure took shape and shaped the area around it.
For starters, it was not originally designed to be one station.
"Originally designed to be three railroad stations under one roof to take care of three different kinds of traffic: The long distance incoming traffic, the long distance outgoing traffic and the suburban traffic." said John Belle of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects.
During the restoration in 1998, architect John Belle and his team devised a plan to reconnect those three circulation systems so they could work as one. Among their other projects was the creation of a second staircase in the main hall that was in the original plans but never built.
"It was not built because at that time, 1910, the building was being finished, there really was no place to go on the east side of the terminal. It was still tenements and slaughter houses, an undesirable place to be. So they saved some money by not building it. And we thought it was our mission to complete the thought that Whitney Warren had," said Frank Prial of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects.
The original plans also called for a Beaux Arts-style tower above the station to serve as home to the railway companies. But with changing times and the increase popularity of the highway system and air travel, those plans were scrapped and years later a new tower was built above underscored by Pan American Airlines, now the Met Life building.
While the main building is on 42nd Street, many people do not realize Grand Central Terminal technically goes all the way up to 97th Street underground and it's those underground tracks that paved the way for Park Avenue.
"They covered over the railroad tracks and then leased or sold the air rights and those air spaces or air rights we’d sell is what we call midtown Manhattan," said Urban Historian Justin Ferate.
So, 100 years ago, when the architects designed one iconic building, they also put the future of a city on track.