GRAND CENTRAL: FABULOUS AND FREE


Visitors from France recently made me realize that many tourists miss one of the greatest attractions in the City, Grand Central Terminal. So, an early morning this last weekend I grabbed a camera, walked a few blocks to the Terminal, took pictures and then came back home and wrote these guidelines for your visit: enjoy!


Grand Central, a Beaux Art gem of gigantic proportions, is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year: it opened in 1913, on the place of the old Grand Central Depot, brainchild of the Commodor Cornelius Vanderbilt, a man with brains and guts, who had purchased the properties between 42nd and 48th St. half a Century earlier. Vanderbilt also invented the idea of "air rights", much to his and his heirs good.The Landmark went through several transformations until finally Grand Central, as it is known today, opened with great fanfare on Feb.2, 1913. To find more about the history of the building, type “Grand Central Tours” in your preferred search engine, and you will find out that two entities offer tours: MAS, a non for profit dedicated to historical preservation, daily, cost $20/person, and a free tour offered on Fridays by the Grand Central Partnership. They are both deficient, but they would do, if reading history is not your thing.


Start your tour of GC at track 42 - way back, on the West side of the Main Concourse, just follow the signs. Walk down the ramp of track 42, turn back and look to your left, you will see that the rails actually make a U-turn, circle around, and come on the other side. Track 41 and 42 are the only ones designed this way. All the others are straight stop: it is a Terminal, not a Station. Admire the beautiful brass lamps highlighting the number of the track and take a look at the old blackboard where they used to mark the Train Schedules with chalk. You will see some of the long gone train names. Turn around, sit in a comfortable leather chair and have a shoe shine at Eddie's shoe shine and repair, then take the elevator and go down one flight. The tracks here have 3 digit numbers and they used to be exclusively for suburban trains, upstairs was for long distance. An extensive Food court is currently downstairs. So are the original wooden benches from the old Vanderbilt Waiting Hall (the first Hall when you enter from the Main Entrance on 42nd St.) Time has given them patina that cannot be acquired overnight.

 Antique sitting benches

Walk towards the center of the Terminal, still on the lower level, and you will run into the famous Oyster Bar, a great place to eat in Grand Central.

The Oyster Bar 

Then go upstairs again and check out the original fixtures atop the ticket counters, they were saved during the Renovation that took place about ten years ago. Take pictures of the Central Concourse, first of the clock in the middle, a meeting point from once upon a time, then from atop the Eastern Staircase, and don't forget the sky in the ceiling - if you look close, you'll realize it's in reverse!

 Sky

 

 The Lobby

Next, climb the Western Staircase and check out Cipriani's Dolci or Michael Jordan's Steakhouse. Go out the Vanderbilt Exit and enter the brass doors to your left to find the Campbell apartment - a reputedly fabulous speak easy during Prohibition. It's still fabulous, especially the prices!

Michael Jordan's Steakhouse

 

The Campbell Appartment 

When you feel you've had enough, walk through the Market, on the East side of the Main Concourse, and see what cravings you can satisfy here: fish, meat, cold cuts and cheeses, fresh bread and produce, exotic teas and spices and flowers.
In less than two hours, you would have seen so much pleasing the eye; you will want to come back, and soon!