Built in palatial Beaux Arts style, celebrated in movies, and narrowly saved from the wrecking ball in the 1970s, New York’s Grand Central rail station turned 100 Friday.
The iconic building no longer has long-distance trains, but its commuter services and multiple subway lines ensure that Grand Central remains at the heart of the Big Apple’s teeming daily commute, even while being one of the world’s biggest tourism sites.
With staircases recalling the Paris opera, an elaborate depiction of the Zodiac across the vast ceiling, chandeliers, and a famed, multi-million-dollar clock, Grand Central still has the power to awe visitors.
Incredibly, though, the soaring building erected by the Vanderbilt family and opened in 1913 came close to being razed and replaced with an office tower before it was saved thanks to a campaign led by John F. Kennedy’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
It finally took a ruling from the US Supreme Court to secure the building’s future.
“It’s not easy to last 100 years in a city of constant change,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the start of anniversary celebrations in the terminal on Friday.
About three-quarters of a million people enter Grand Central daily. In honor of the 100th birthday, station shops and food outlets were charging 1913 prices, such as 10 cents for a shoeshine, six cents for a loaf of rye bread and a coffee for five cents.
Actress Cynthia Nixon from the “Sex and the City” series, who attended the birthday ceremony, said Grand Central was “such a special place, full of memories.”
“We own it. It’s so much a part of our daily life,” she said.
With its glamorous looks and the buzz of arrivals and departures, Grand Central is ready made for the screen, appearing in contemporary productions like the TV series “Gossip Girl” as it did in classic films like Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest.” Sophia Loren once acted there during the filming of “Fire Power.”
Originally Grand Central was the terminal for long distance trains, before focusing on New York and the suburbs stretching into Connecticut. The commuter hub will get even busier in 2019 when a Long Island Rail Road terminal opens.