May 23, 2013

Photography of the Grand Central Terminal 100 Year Anniversary - New York City

Grand Central Terminal as photographed by Hal Morey on behalf of the N.Y. Central R.R. circa 1929.

One of the grandest buildings in New York City, the Grand Central Terminal is as relevant today as it was when it first opened back in the beginning of the 20th century.  Today we pay tribute to one of the most amazing landmarks of New York City: Grand Central Terminal.  We've had a love affair with this beautiful building from the moment we arrived in New York many years ago.  Grand Central Terminal survived many ups and downs in the last 100 years.  Yet, it looks better than ever; especially on the inside!
2013 is the year that New York's grande dame celebrates its centennial anniversary.  Reason enough for a little homage!  Stardust loves these amazing photographs of cathedral-like Grand Central Terminal (sometimes incorrectly named Grand Central Station) in New York City from a bygone era.

We made sure to use the authentic original images without alterations.  Plus, we've selected only those photographs that display a beautiful balance between light and shadow.  The photographer is referenced when known.  If it's not, please let us know the photographer's name and we will be happy to update the credits.

Perhaps one of New York's finest monuments, Grand Central Terminal was designed in a Beaux-Arts style by the architectural firms of Reed and Stem and Warren and Wetmore. The terminal opened on February 2nd 1913 when trains were still a luxurious means of traveling across America. It was dubbed the greatest railway terminal in the world and had an $80 million price tag (a very large sum back in 1913)! The beautiful astronomical mural on the Main Concourse's ceiling depicts the Mediterranean sky during the October to March zodiac, featuring 2,500 stars. Designed in France and constructed in Long Island City, the massive figures of Roman gods Mercury, Minerva and Hercules look down from Grand Central's 42nd Street entrance. Weighing 1,500 tons and 66 feet in length, the figures were carved separately and then joined together on the Terminal's exterior. The world's largest Tiffany clock, measuring 14 feet, resides at the center of the sculptural group at Grand Central's 42nd Street entrance.

In 1968, Penn Central (the owner of Grand Central Terminal) unveiled plans to demolish the Station. Plans called for a tower designed by modernist architect Marcel Breuer even bigger than the Pan Am Building to be built over Grand Central. Perhaps it is awkward that Marcel Breuer even considered playing part in this atrocity. The plans drew huge opposition, most prominently from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Six months prior to the unveiling of the Breuer plans, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Grand Central Terminal a "landmark". Nowadays more than 750,000 people pass through Grand Central Terminal which is the entire population of Alaska.

The combination of black and white photography, filtered light streaming through the windows, New York City, Grand Central Terminal, and the atmosphere of a lingering Depression Era create a perfect storm of photographic wonderfulness.

These astonishingly beautiful black & white and sometimes sepia-colored photographs have something dauntingly beautiful.  The effect would be difficult if not impossible to repeat today. The terminal used to be filled with sooth from the trains and quite a bit of tobacco smoke.  In addition, light can no longer beam in because of the numerous tall adjacent buildings that now dwarf Grand Central Terminal.  Still, it is nice to try to imagine what it felt like to stand in those beautiful beams of light that we see in old photos such as these.  Wish we had a time machine!  Enjoy some of the most beautiful black & white photographs of Grand Central Terminal; an icon of New York City architecture!
Grand Central Terminal as photographed by John Collier on behalf of the FSA/Office of War 1941
Grand Central Terminal with its main concourse information desk as photographed by John Collier on behalf of the FSA/Office of War 1941
1941, the dawn of war: it's perhaps sobering to realize that the above photographs by John Collier were shot just two months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. During World War II a USO Canteen was located inside Grand Central reflecting the important role that the Terminal served as a point of departure for thousands of American troops.

In 1957 the Hungarian-born French photographer Brassaï visited the US for the first time and took perhaps one of the last great light&shadow photographs. Soon after; new construction outside Grand Central Terminal would block out most sunlight coming through the windows of Grand Central Terminal.
Grand Central Terminal with its main concourse information desk as photographed by French photographe Brassaï in 1957. An iconic meeting place, the Information Booth on the Main Concourse features a circular marble and brass column at its center, containing a hidden, spiral staircase leading to the Lower Level.  It is the perfect meeting place!

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