In the Neighborhood - Grand Central Station

 Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Our new office is located on East 42nd Street, in the heart of New York City. We’d like to share some fun facts with you about this busy part of Manhattan. This way, when you pop over to see us for a coffee (or, more likely, some solid financial planning and investment advice), you can check out the neighborhood too.

42nd Street is a major street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, in the area also referred to as Midtown. 42nd Street crosses with Broadway at Times Square, which you know from the Ball Drop at New Year’s Eve. One of the reasons for the hustle and bustle of Midtown Manhattan is the presence of Grand Central Station, located at 42nd Street and Park Avenue.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central first opened in October 1871, at which point it was still called Grand Central Depot. It was built by railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. After a number of reconstructions the entire building was replaced in the early 20th Century by what is currently known as the Grand Central Terminal (colloquially referred to as Grand Central Station).

 Cornelius Vanderbilt in front of Grand Central Station. Image Copyright :  Felix Lipov

Cornelius Vanderbilt in front of Grand Central Station. Image Copyright : Felix Lipov

The construction of Grand Central was the largest construction project in New York’s history up to that time. Not only was it nearly twice the size of its competitor Pennsylvania Station, on the West Side of Manhattan, but it was also one of the world’s first all-electric buildings (Source: Wikipedia).

The Astronomical Ceiling

As many train passengers notice on their daily commute into New York City, Grand Central’s ceiling depicts a beautiful astronomical mural. The mural is the result of a collaboration between Warren & Wetmore (one of the architectural firms that built the railway station) and French portrait artist Paul César Helleu (1859-1927) known for his portraits and scenes of society women during the Belle Époque (Source: artnet.com).

 Image Credit: AtlasObscura.com.

Image Credit: AtlasObscura.com.

In the 1990's the ceiling was restored to its former glory. Along with soot from the trains, cigarette smoke had wafted up to the ceiling over the course of many decades of smoking passengers passing through the station. The restorers left one small dirty patch, located near the crab on the ceiling. You can still see it today! (Source: AtlasObscura.com).

Along with the sparkle and shine, the restoration crew left behind a grimy reminder of the station’s smoky past. In the northwest corner of the ceiling, crossing the teal-blue background and the arch over the West Balcony, there is a small, dark rectangle that was left untouched. Look up and find the crab, and near its claw you can still see the spot, almost 20 years later.

A sticky patina of water stains, train soot, dirt and grime had smothered the ceiling, but the key ingredient in the brown sludge was tobacco—decades and decades of cigarette smoke wafting up with no means of escape. To clean it all and still preserve the ceiling’s luster was painstaking work, using only mild sudsy water and gentle scrubbing with Q-tips.  

The Secret Track at Grand Central

Have you ever heard of Track 61? During his time in office, President Roosevelt used a secret rail line, Track 61 to travel in and out of New York City. The now abandoned track provided an underground connection between Grand Central and the nearby Waldorf-Astoria hotel (Source: History.com).