After almost ten years of renovation and reengineering, the new Grand Central Terminal opened to the public precisely at midnight on February 2, 1913. More than 150,000 people from all over the city visited the New York's newest landmark on its opening day.
Not just a soaring Beaux-Arts structure, the terminal showcased a sophisticated circulation plan. Commuters could take ramps from train to street, and Park Avenue was elevated to allow vehicles to move around the Terminal building. Special areas out of the main traffic flow were created for passengers to greet the people who had come to meet them ("kissing galleries").
In 1899 The New York Times had called Grand Central "a cruel disgrace." But now, its image had changed dramatically. "The Grand Central Terminal is not only a station," The Times declared, "it is a monument, a civic center, or, if one will, a city. Without exception, it is not only the greatest station in the United States, but the greatest station, of any type, in the world."
THE NEW YORK TIMES, FEB 2, 1913
Solving Greatest Terminal Problem of the Age
In view of the many changes that the New York Central's terminal has undergone in the course of its history, people are asking, quite naturally, whether the great railroad station that is open to-day for the first time is the final, permanent structure, adequate to accommodate whatever future development may come to the great system of traffic to which it belongs...
...The new station had to be large enough. It also had to be convenient enough. It had to be roomy, but mere roominess would not serve the purpose. In a sense, the very size of the terminal threatened to be a drawback. It must not be too large or seem too large for easy use. The architects set before themselves the problem of planning a station that would be as compact as the little station of a little town. In a sense then, the new Grand Central Terminal was planned to be one of the "smallest" big stations in the world...
...One of the most conspicuous features of the terminal plans was the obvious effort to systematize every activity with which henceforth it will be astir. Everything is segregated. When the thing is all done there will be a separate and distinct station for the incoming and outgoing passengers. These stations will be all part of one structure , of course, and it will be the simplest thing in the world to get from one to the other. But they will be distinct. The incoming folk will not meet the outgoing. More important than that, they will not run into one another...
The "Kissing Galleries."
As the last word in segregation, consider the announcement that even sentiment is to be segregated in the new Grand Central Terminal. There are specially designed parts of the station known as the "Kissing Galleries." They are the places where you may go to meet the person you want to meet. These galleries run alongside the inclined walks on which the stream of passengers from a train just arrived make their way to the street. Slightly elevated, it is promised that they will offer exceptional vantage points for recognition, hailing, and the subsequent embrace. Time was when the embracing went on all over the terminal and the indignant handlers of the baggage trucks would swear that their paths were forever being blocked by leisurely demonstrations of affection. But we have changed all that.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, FEB 3, 1913
New Grand Central Station Is Opened After 10 Years' Work
First remarked in the new Grand Central is the main concourse on the upper level. This huge auditorium, running the entire width of the main structure, with its center line coinciding exactly with Forty-third street, is 300 feet long, 125 feet wide and 125 feet high, and finished in Botticini marble...
...The use of electricity in place of steam for motive power in the new terminal has made the trainshed of the new Grand Central entirely different from that of the earlier station. The electric locomotive has made possible economy of space at the new terminal and the yards and platform tracks have been placed beneath street surfaces with baggage and other facilities grouped above them.
The absolute separation of inward and outward-bound passengers is another feature of the efficiency of the new terminal.
THE NEW YORK TIMES, FEB 3, 1913
City Folks Crowd New Grand Central
More than 150,000 persons, railroad officials estimated, visited the new Grand Central Terminal between midnight yesterday when the doors were opened to the public and at 7 o'clock last night. This vast throng, railroad men declared, was made up principally of people from Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Hundreds of persons remained in the great concourse throughout the early morning hours, and from 8 o'clock yesterday morning until 5 in the afternoon, the main floor of the concourse and the galleries were packed with the visitors.
It was a curious, good-natured throng and reached its height at 4 o'clock, when the great structure was so crowded that persons found difficulty in moving. Railroad men viewed the scene with amazement, saying that never before had the public been known to take such a keen interest in the opening of a railroad terminal.
My American Experience
The U.S. has dozens of impressive, important, and iconic structures. Which ones have you been to? Which has had the biggest impact on its local community and on the country? Which one is your favorite?