Beautiful New Website Explores 100 Years of Grand Central's History

Illustration for article titled Beautiful New Website Explores 100 Years of Grand Central's History

New York's Grand Central Terminal is one of the country's largest and busiest public transit structures, and now it has a new website that honors its outsize legacy. Based on the Grand by Design exhibition that was on display at the station last year, the website includes historical documents, videos, stories, and rare, previously unseen photos of the building throughout the years.

From its first incarnation as the quaint Grand Central Depot, to pioneering the conversion from steam power to electricity, to its importance as a public space and performance venue, the station has been an ever-adjusting centerpiece to New York City life.

Illustration for article titled Beautiful New Website Explores 100 Years of Grand Central's History
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The New York Central completed the first phase of electrification in 1906. Here, the line's first electric train stands outside the Grand Central train shed after its first test run from High Bridge on the Harlem River in Northern Manhattan.

The drama builds with a story about how Grand Central was almost demolished until its air rights were sold to MetLife, in a controversial move that allowed a massive skyscraper to be built just behind the station (that many say ruined its good looks).

Captivating in an entirely different way is the section on the station's future, including what's essentially an entire new station currently being built below Grand Central. The East Side Access project is a seven-mile tunnel that's being bored below Manhattan at this very moment to bring Long Island Railroad trains to the station. There are some lovely construction photos to peruse on the site as well.

Also fun? The Ask Me section with interviews featuring current employees. [Grand By Design]

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All images courtesy New York Transit Museum. Top image: The final design sketch (with Whitney Warren's handwritten notes) contains elements from both collaborating architects, including Reed & Stem's elevated road and Warren & Wetmore's Beaux-Arts style façade and triumphal arches.

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DISCUSSION

One of the most unfortunate aspects of the GCT building is it is more or less a building with all its architectural value inside rather then outside, there is an outside, who knows it might look great, its just that the outside of GCT is shrouded in a massive roadway project that essentially turns the building into a visual blight. It must be a terrible thing to be an architect sometimes, GCT is a fine looking building on paper, but in the flesh, most people don’t really see the aesthetic of GCT, pity the architects fate.

Park Avenue, one of the most important streets in NYC, has disfigured GCT in a way which is unresolvable. For those that don’t know it, GCT was built right in the middle of Park Avenue, the Avenue literally runs right through it, or around it I should say. While the square building that is GCT sits proudly, the designers of roads in NYC had to solve the fact that Park Avenue is cut off, North from South. The solution is to wrap the outside of the building with a road, elevated so you can get into GCT but you cant really see it, like you see most every other building. But thats not all, in order to drive from North to South, or the other way around you must have hundreds of feet of road to get you up to the roads that surround GCT and then hundreds of feet or read to get you back down to Park Avenue. Massive structures lead you in both directions and act as a blight against any exterior architectural beauty.

If you want to enter GCT through its front door, be prepared to be mightily unimpressed, you must walk under a roadway bridge that runs overhead, there is no majesty, there is no European like introduction and anticipation to the great building, its just a bunch of doors under a dark underpass.

What I wonder is, if there were designs to take down GCT there must have been some replace design, I wonder what those designs might have been. Guess number one would be to clear the impediments that severed Park Avenue North from Park Avenue South. Keep the tracks as there were, just move the building out of the way of Park Avenue.