Grand Central Station (42nd St., between Vanderbilt and Lexington Aves.) is one of New York City ’s most glorious buildings. To step inside its vast 125-foot-high concourse—with glassed-in catwalks, grand staircases, and a vaulted, star-studded, aquamarine ceiling—is to be transported back to a more romantic era when women wore hoop skirts and men wore top hats.
Completed in 1913 by the design firms of Reed & Stem and Warren & Wetmore, Grand Central Station is a city within a city. Beaux-Arts eclectic on the outside, early 20th-century modern on the inside, it houses innumerable new shops and newsstands, several bars and restaurants, and a library devoted to railroading (open by appointment only).
Adjoining the station are 27 miles of track that loop and stretch beneath Park Avenue as far north as 50th Street, and seven stories of tunnels containing electric power facilities, water and gas mains, sewage pipes, steam, and rats.
In its heyday, Grand Central was the terminus for two major railroads: the New York Central, and the New York, New Haven, and Hartford lines. Trains with romantic names such as the Empire State Express and Super Chief rolled in daily. A theater in the station screened newsreels, and CBS broadcast from the roof.
Today, Grand Central Station is but a shadow of its former self. Only about 500 commuter trains arrive and depart daily (long-distance trains use Penn Station).
To get the best view of Grand Central, take the escalators up to the balconies on the north side. From here, you can watch the foot traffic crisscrossing below in seemingly choreographed style. Adjoining Grand Central to the north, via the escalators, is the wide, 59-story Met Life Building.