An Immersive, Architectural Tour of New York City’s Iconic Grand Central Terminal

New York­ers can be a mad­den­ing­ly closed-mouth bunch, self­ish­ly guard­ing our secret haunts lest they be over­run with new­com­ers and tourists…

But there’s not much we can do to deflect inter­est from Grand Cen­tral Teminal’s whis­per­ing gallery, a wild­ly pop­u­lar acoustic anom­aly in the tiled pas­sage­way just out­side its famous Oys­ter Bar.

So we invite you to bring a friend, posi­tion your­selves in oppo­site cor­ners, fac­ing away from each oth­er, and mur­mur your secrets to the wall.

Your friend will hear you as clear­ly as if you’d been whis­per­ing direct­ly into their ear…and 9 times out of 10, a curi­ous onlook­er will approach to ask what exact­ly is going on.

Ini­ti­ate them!

Shar­ing secrets of this order cul­ti­vates civic pride, a pow­er­ful force that Jacque­line Kennedy Onas­sis har­nessed when devel­op­ers threat­ened to obscure Grand Central’s beau­ty with a tow­er­ing addi­tion designed by Mod­ernist archi­tect Mar­cel Breuer.

Onas­sis wrote to May­or Abra­ham Beame in 1975, hop­ing to enlist him in the fight to spare mid­town Manhattan’s jew­el from an affront that the Land­marks Preser­va­tion Com­mis­sion called an “aes­thet­ic joke:”

Is it not cru­el to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud moments, until there is noth­ing left of all her his­to­ry and beau­ty to inspire our chil­dren? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?

The Supreme Court sealed the deal in Grand Cen­tral’s favor in Penn Cen­tral Trans­porta­tion Co. vs. New York City, a (par­don the pun) land­mark deci­sion that ensured future gen­er­a­tions could dis­cov­er  the Beaux-Arts treats his­to­ri­an Antho­ny Robins, author of Grand Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal: 100 Years of a New York Land­mark, divulges above.

Hope­ful­ly, you’ll be inspired to bud­get a few extra min­utes to hunt for Cadu­cei and Van­der­bilt fam­i­ly acorns next time you’re grab­bing a Metro-North com­muter train.

(Amtrak’s long dis­tance lines oper­ate out of Penn Sta­tion…)

Spend some time in Grand Cen­tral’s icon­ic Main Con­course.

Gaze up toward the great arched win­dows to see if you can catch a tiny human fig­ure behind the glass bricks, pass­ing along one of the high up hid­den cat­walks con­nect­ing office build­ings anchor­ing Grand Cen­tral’s cor­ners.

Per­haps you’ll be privy to some intrigue near the famous four-sided clock, a time-hon­ored ren­dez-vous spot that’s appeared in numer­ous films, includ­ing The God­fa­ther, Men in Black, and North by North­west.

Admire the upside down and back­wards con­stel­la­tions adorn­ing the vault­ed ceil­ing, mar­veling that it not only took five men — archi­tect Whit­ney War­ren, artist Paul Helleu, mural­ist J. Mon­roe Hewlett, painter Charles Bas­ing, and astronomer Harold Jaco­by — to get it wrong, their celes­tial boo-boo has been embraced dur­ing sub­se­quent ren­o­va­tions.

If your wal­let’s as fat as a Park Avenue swell’s, head to the Camp­bell Apart­ment atop the West Stair­case. For­mer­ly the pri­vate office of Jazz Age financier, John W. Camp­bell, it’s now a glam­orous venue for blow­ing $20 on a mar­ti­ni.

(Hot tip — that same $20 can fetch you six­teen Long Island Blue Points dur­ing Hap­py Hour at the Oys­ter Bar.)

As for the East Stair­case, near­ly 100 years younger than its seem­ing fra­ter­nal twin across the Concourse’s mar­ble expanse, that one leads to an Apple Store.

Browse var­i­ous options for Grand Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal guid­ed and self-guid­ed tours here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Archi­tect Breaks Down Five of the Most Icon­ic New York City Apart­ments

A Whirl­wind Archi­tec­tur­al Tour of the New York Pub­lic Library–“Hidden Details” and All

An Archi­tect Demys­ti­fies the Art Deco Design of the Icon­ic Chrysler Build­ing (1930)

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.