A Grand Central Station

Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal (Photo by Don Knebel)

New York City’s iconic Grand Central Terminal, usually called Grand Central Station, is famous for the vaulted ceiling of its Main Concourse.  Sky watchers have long noticed curious discrepancies between the ceiling and what it was supposed to mimic.

In February 1913, the New York Central Railroad opened the Grand Central Terminal at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in New York City to service the many intercity passenger trains entering and leaving the city every day.   To make sure passengers appreciated the meaning of “Grand,” the 48-acre facility included an enormous concourse at the center of its ground level.  The 30,000 square-foot hall featured an elliptical barrel ceiling rising 125 feet above the floor.  The original idea of covering the ceiling with skylights was scrapped in favor of painting the ceiling blue and adding 2500 stars arranged to depict the constellations visible in New York’s winter sky.  Immediately after the public opening, New Yorkers pointed out that the positions of most of the constellations were reversed left to right from their observable positions.  No one has adequately explained the mix-up, which was intentionally repeated when the celestial mural was recreated on a wooden ceiling placed beneath the leaky original.

Today, Grand Central Station’s 44 underground platforms, the most of any railroad terminal in the world, serve more than 250,000 passengers a day traveling within New York City and to and from nearby cities.  An additional 20 million people come to the terminal each year to enjoy its 60 shops, 35 restaurants or just each other, consistently ranking it among the world’s ten most visited places.

Grand Central Station is featured in “Carrying the Banner,” one of the principal songs in Disney’s Newsies, the Broadway hit that opens this Friday for a three weekend run at Carmel’s Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre. 

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