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Published: January 31st 2021
Grand Central Station - NEW YORK.
Another virtual tour to New York, this time to visit the iconic Grand Central Station but before we entered we had the chance to view The Jewel in the Sky, The Chrysler Building.
The project for the Chrysler Building began as a collaboration between architect William Van Allen and contractor William H. Reynolds. Van Alen’s original design was containing a decorative ‘diamond’ crown, showroom windows that were tripled in height and topped with a 12 story section of glass corners. His designs proved to be too expensive and a bit too advanced for Reynolds’ tastes, who sold the design and lease Walter Chrysler.
Chrysler saw an opportunity in the project. The east 42nd street area, once glamorous in the time that The Grand Central Station was completed, had become commercially cheap with lots of available space. Chrysler believed that he could breath life back into the area with a brand new iconic building. So much so that Van Alen’s design turned out to be not ambitious enough, and he had Van Alen redesign his plans to add additional stories.
They were to go
for the title of tallest building in the world & the quest for height supremacy continued in secret as another building in Wall Street was being built at the same time with a spire lengthened by 60 feet to push it to 925 feet, or 85 feet taller than the Chrysler building’s plan.
So Chrysler and Van Alen decided to add a surprise 186-foot spire. They hoisted 4 parts of the spire secretly to the top and riveted them together in 90 minutes. 40 Wall Street even held a celebration for being the tallest building in the world, without realizing that they had been passed.
But Chrysler’s victory would only last for 11 months when the Empire State Building passed it as the tallest building in the world.
The quest for the world’s tallest building didn’t really matter, as buildings will always be built taller. In the end, it was Van Alen’s design that is most iconic. It may not be the tallest building in New York, but it is the best looking.
Officially named Grand Central Terminal, this busy transportation hub is more often called Grand Central Station although that is
technically the name of the subway station just underneath.
The first Grand Central Terminal was built in 1871 by shipping and railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. However, the original Grand Central soon became obsolete when steam locomotives were banned after a catastrophic train collision in 1902 that killed 17 and injured 38. Within months, plans were underway to demolish the existing station and build a new terminal for electric trains.
The new Grand Central Terminal officially opened on February 2, 1913.
The terminal is spread over 49 acres and has 44 platforms.
The zodiac ceiling features 12 constellations painted in gold leaf plus 2500 stars some of them illuminated by LEDs.
The zodiac was painted backwards? No one knows for sure how the mix-up occurred, but Grand Central’s founder Vanderbilt claimed that it was no accident; the zodiac was intended to be viewed from a divine perspective, rather than a human one !
I missed it but next to Cancer there is a small dark patch of brick. This brick reveals what the building’s ceiling looked like before it was cleaned during the restoration in the 1990s.
It was originally thought to be soot and debris from the trains on the bricks but it was actually 70% nicotine and tar from cigarettes when smoking was permitted in the building!
The multi million dollar Information Booth Clock is another feature of the terminal.
A brass design with four opal glass faces & on the top of the clock is a brass acorn, one of the trademarks of the Vanderbilt family.
The "whispering gallery" is located on the dining concourse near the famous Oyster Bar, here the acoustics of the low ceramic arches can cause a whisper to sound like a shout. It was fun when Patrick went across the concourse and whispered back to Aaron.
We also learnt about the secret networks of underground tracks, steam-pipe tunnels, and storage areas. Hidden in these depths is a train platform with an undercover entrance and an elevator straight up to the Waldorf Astoria hotel.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt reportedly used this as his private entry into New York City, a way to get from his train to the hotel in his wheelchair without being bothered by reporters.
Fancy a game of tennis while you wait for your train? On the fourth floor overlooking Park Avenue is the Annex, home to the Vanderbilt Tennis Club
You learn so much on these tours & all from the comfort of your armchair.
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