Grand Central Terminal is one of New York City's historical and architectural gems. Nestled in the heart of Manhattan, it hosts a million guests every day.
As unimaginable as it seems, Grand Central came close to being wiped from the city's landscape. Now, after a much-needed and lingering facelift, the terminal is ready to take the public back in time.
After years of restoration work, the building, once again looking as good as ever, is being re-dedicated Thursday. "It is now restored to all of its glory," says chief architect George Belle. "The sky ceiling...all the ornamental features are back to their original state."
When the building debuted in 1913, it didn't take very long for Hollywood to come calling. The silver screen had arrived just in time to capture the golden age of train travel. In fact, Hollywood never left.
Even television played its role. CBS built their own studios in Grand Central, where legendary newsmen Walter Cronkite and Douglas Edwards made names for themselves.
This is a wonderland, a city beneath a city. Passages to hotels, office buildings, complete with stores for every need.
But by the early 1950s, the era of the train had been replaced by the automobile. The glory of long-distance train travel had passed, and with it, its revenues.
"The railroad company that owned Grand Central Terminal wanted desperately to demolish the building," says one New York tour guide. "They already succeeded in demolishing Penn Station and building two not-so-interesting skyscrapers on top."
Even though Grand Central earned landmark status in 1967, it still had to fight for its survival.
"I think we all realize how important it is to save these great and beautiful buildings like Grand Central," Jackie Kennedy Onassis said more than 20 years ago.
New Yorkers rallied to preserve the landmark. For 11 years, the battle raged all the way to the Supreme Court. The court finally ruled in favor of the city's landmark law. But, after decades of neglect, Grand Central was no longer grand.
The terminal was in a sorry state. The roof was leaking. The ceiling had years of cigarette smoke, cigar smoke, dust, and other fumes embedded in it.
In the early '80s, urgent repairs began. Years of grime were painstakingly wiped away. Intricate woodwork, gold and nickel-plated chandeliers, marble floors and walls all were brought back to their original splendor. Ten years and $200 million later, Grand Central Terminal is set to reclaim the spotlight once again.
"People used to walk through the terminal with their heads down," says one of the building's restorers. "Now they walk with their heads up. They're trying to see everything."