Grand Central Terminal Whispering Gallery, New York City

The whispering gallery at the bottom of the ramp to the lower concourse at Grand Central Terminal, around 1913-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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These photos were taken from the bottom of the ramp that is seen in an earlier post, which leads from the Main Concourse to the station’s lower concourse. Because of the curve of the ceiling here, two people can stand facing the walls on opposite corners and speak at a normal level. The acoustics of the ceiling will carry their voices across the arch and the other person will be able to hear them perfectly clearly. That is, in fact, exactly what the person on the far right of the 2016 photo is doing; his friend was standing just out of the frame of the photo on the left side. I don’t know whether it was deliberately designed like that, or if the man in the bowler derby and overcoat in the first photo ever tried it out, but it is one of Grand Central Terminal’s more unusual architectural features.

Grand Central Terminal Suburban Concourse, New York City (2)

Another view of the lower concourse at Grand Central Terminal, around 1913-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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Like the photos in the previous post, this view shows the lower concourse at Grand Central Terminal. It is located directly underneath the Main Concourse, and when the station opened in 1913, this level was used for suburban commuter trains. The row of windows on the right side in the first photo were the ticket offices of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, which provided commuter service to the north of the city, along the present-day Hudson and Harlem Lines on the Metro-North Railroad. The ramp in the center of the photo is the same one that appears in the first photo, and it leads up to the Main Concourse. Beyond it are more ticket windows, for the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, which provided service along the current Metro-North New Haven Line.

Today, this concourse is still used by commuters to access the trains on the lower tracks, but it also doubles as the station’s food court. Several prominent New York City restaurants have locations here, including Junior’s in the foreground and Shake Shack beyond it. Most of the original features are still here, including the marble walls, decorative ceiling, information kiosk to the left, and the ticket windows to the right, which now display menus.

Grand Central Terminal Suburban Concourse, New York City

The lower concourse at Grand Central Terminal, showing the ramp to the upper level, around 1913-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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Grand Central Terminal is best known for its spacious Main Concourse, but when the station first opened in 1913 the upper level was only used for inter-city trains. Commuters to the outer suburbs departed from this significantly less breathtaking concourse located on the lower level, directly underneath the Main Concourse. The first photo was probably taken around the time that the station opened, but over the years its function has changed. As explained in the previous post, the station is no longer split between long-distance and suburban trains; instead, Amtrak uses nearby Penn Station along with the Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit commuter lines, while Grand Central is exclusively a commuter rail station, used by the Metro-North Railroad.

Today, the lower concourse is significantly more crowded today than it was in the first photo. The lower tracks are still in use, but the concourse has taken on a second role as the station’s food court, with Shake Shack and other restaurants occupying the space on the left side where the ticket office windows were located in the first photo. Despite this, though, the underlying architecture has not changed much, and the station would still be recognizable to a commuter from the early 20th century.

Grand Central Terminal Ramp, New York City

The ramp to the lower concourse at Grand Central Terminal, around 1913-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same location in 2016:

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New York’s Grand Central Terminal is the world’s largest train station in terms of number of platforms, and in order to save space in crowded midtown Manhattan, it was built with two levels of tracks. The first photo was taken shortly after the station opened in 1913, showing the ramp to the lower platforms. At the time, the Main Concourse, located just on the other side of the columns on the left, served inter-city passengers, while the lower tracks were for suburban commuter trains.

By the mid-1900s, passenger travel had significantly declined, and the station was subject to a major alteration that would have destroyed most of the original interior. However, it survived and was subsequently restored, and today the only real difference in these two photos is the appearance of the walkway above the ramp. Amtrak no longer uses the station, though, so today all of the platforms on both the upper and lower levels are used by Metro-North Railroad commuter trains.

Grand Central Terminal, New York City

Grand Central Terminal, between when it opened in 1913 and around 1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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Grand Central Terminal in New York City was built in 1913 on the site of a previous station, and although it is no longer the inter-city rail hub that it used to be, it is still a major part of rail transit in New York City, as seen in the 2014 rush hour photo of the concourse.  The concourse has undergone renovations and restorations along the way, which included building a staircase on the opposite end – using stone from the same quarry as the original structure – but it retains a very similar appearance, even down to the constellations on the ceiling, which can be seen in both photos.  The first photo is dated by the Library of Congress as being between 1910 and 1920, but it was likely taken around the time that it opened, to show the world for the first time what this station would look like.

Grand Central Terminal, New York

Grand Central Depot in 1871. Image courtesy of New York Public Library.

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The newly reconstructed Grand Central Station around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The present-day Grand Central Terminal in 2010:

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The three photos show the three different versions of the railroad station on 42nd Street.  Originally built in 1871 and named Grand Central Depot, it was a joint effort between three New York railroads, hence the term “grand central.”  It was extensively rebuilt from 1899 to 1900, as shown in the second photo, but it didn’t last for long.  Starting in 1903, it was demolished in stages and replaced with the current structure, which was completed in 1913.  This building itself was threatened in the 1960’s – it was designed to be able to support the weight of a tower above it, and several proposals were considered, one of which would have kept the original structure, while stripping it of most of its historic significance.  Ultimately, the city declared the building a landmark, thus preventing it from being altered or demolished.