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Grand Central Terminal turns 100 as rededication ceremony honors legacy

Grand Central Terminal is a hub of activity

Grand Central Terminal is a hub of activity in Manhattan. (Jan. 24, 2013) Credit: Natan Dvir

Grand Central Terminal turns the big 100 Saturday and its caretakers are pulling out all the stops to make sure every commuter who walks its halls Friday learns about its legacy.

Metro-North Commuter Railroad officials, the mayor and other sponsors will kick off a yearlong celebration of the centennial with a rededication ceremony Friday.

Gabrielle Schubert, director of the New York Transit Museum, which is running an exhibit on the history of the terminal in Vanderbilt Hall, said the party would show visitors how far the city has come since its boom during the 20th century and its limitless potential. "When you are a commuter and you are busy, you don't take the time to see the building and how far it has come," she said.

The rededication will include a performance by the West Point Concert band and celebrity appearances. The terminal's various restaurants will serve their top dishes at 1913 prices, such as a 19-cent slice of cheesecake at the Oyster Bar & Restaurant.

Although those cheap prices and the fanfare are part of a one-day event, there will be more celebrations for months to come.

The transit museum's "Grand by Design" exhibit will run through mid-March and show people not only how the terminal connected more people to the city, but how it also enhanced Manhattan.

Schubert said Grand Central's architecture, impact on the railroad industry during the early 20th century and its influence on the development of midtown would all be on display in the exhibit. "We want people to recognize the beauty of this building and how it has lasted 100 years," she said.

As much as the terminal's administrators celebrate Grand Central's past, they are excited for its next 100 years.

Howard Permut, the president of Metro-North, said its commuter reach would continue to grow once the East Side Access project brings Long Island Rail Road service to Grand Central sometime around 2019.

"We will be able to maintain it as the great hub as it is," he said.

Future enhancements won't just be for the terminal's underground either. The city will be improving the area around Park Avenue between 41st and 42nd streets, creating a new public space for people to enjoy.

"The entrance under Park Avenue is kind of dismissive," Permut said. "The common question people ask when they're around there is, 'Where is Grand Central?' "

The Metro-North president, who has overseen the agency since its inception 30 years ago, said those improvements will add to the terminal's allure and continue to inspire New Yorkers and visitors alike.

"I believe in 100 years Grand Central will still be a grand place in the center of New York," he said.


A Grand Central timeline


1869: Cornelius Vanderbilt commissions architect John B. Snook to build Grand Central, the largest railway station in the world.

Oct. 10, 1871: Grand Central Depot opens.

1899-1900: Grand Central's original headhouse is demolished to make way for Grand Central Station.

Jan. 8, 1902: A train collision kills 15 passengers in the Park Avenue tunnel 15 blocks from Grand Central Station. The accident, caused by faulty human signals, ignites public outcry and further motivates plans to renovate Grand Central for electric railcars.

Feb. 2, 1913: Grand Central Station reopens as Grand Central Terminal after a decade of renovations.

1967: Grand Central Terminal is designated a New York City landmark.

1975: Donald Trump buys the Commodore Hotel east of Grand Central and agrees to pay for renovations to the terminal's exterior.

Sept. 11, 1976: Croatian nationalists, who also hijack a plane, plant a bomb in a Grand Central Terminal coin locker. They tell officials where the bomb is located, but it is disarmed incorrectly. An NYPD bomb specialist is killed and 30 are wounded in the explosion.

1979: Grand Central Terminal is designated a national landmark.

1994: MTA signs long-term lease for Grand Central and begins massive renovations.

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