40 Years Rescued, 20 Years Renewed
Grand Central Terminal’s 105-year journey has been as much about survival as it has reinvention. This year, we’re celebrating the anniversaries of two milestones that, perhaps more than any others, are the very reason Grand Central stands today.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that preserved the building’s historic landmark status, prohibiting the construction of a 55-story office tower that would have obscured the façade and demolished the Main Concourse. The historic campaign to rescue Grand Central was led by several notable New Yorkers organized by The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), including former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, for whom the renovated main entry foyer on 42nd Street and Park Avenue is named. By effectively saving the building, the ruling opened discussions to consider major improvements to Grand Central, which had been falling into disrepair.
While the Supreme Court ruling saved the building, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s multi-phase restoration served as its rebirth. For the restoration, the MTA retained Beyer Blinder Belle as its architectural consultant to assist in returning the neglected building to its original splendor. Significant renovations included the cleaning of the vaulted constellation ceiling and building’s marble and Caen stone, a new Main Concourse East stairwell which appeared in the original design but had never been built, heating and air conditioning capabilities, and an infusion of quality restaurants, food vendors, and shops. The renewed Terminal officially reopened its doors to admirers, shoppers, and diners October 1, 1998, and was celebrated with a Rededication Ceremony, marking the turning point of when the once grand building became a destination again.
To celebrate the anniversary, Grand Central Terminal and New York Transit Museum are partnering with The Municipal Art Society of New York, which is celebrating its own milestone – 125 years of protecting and preserving the city’s legacy spaces and encouraging thoughtful planning and urban design. Grand Central will host an exhibit by The Municipal Art Society of New York reviewing 40 years of Grand Central history in Vanderbilt Hall later this year.
Celebrate With Us
Join us this year from June 26 – October 1 for a whole season of event programming, to celebrate where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. The events and activities underscore the Terminal’s impact on New York and its continued vitality as a treasured public space. Unable to join us in person? Follow along as we tell stories 40 years in the making on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The best way to stay abreast of what’s going on? Subscribe to our email newsletter for special announcements, event reminders, and stories celebrating 40 years rescued, 20 years renewed.
While you’re here, we invite you to explore the timeline of these last 40 years, a look back on the transformative work of the restoration 20 years ago with stunning Then and Now photos, and discover how we’re celebrating this landmark of a year.
“Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children…?”
Grand Central Terminal
Then & Now
Slide to View Before and After
The Main Concourse as seen from the build out of the East Staircase and Balcony. The staircases were originally modeled after the Grand Staircase in the Paris Opera House. Photo credits: New York Transit Museum / Grand Central Terminal
A giant clock was replaced by a stunning American Flag, in honor of those we lost on September 11, 2001. Photo credits: New York Transit Museum / Grand Central Terminal
Kodak’s giant Exhibit Center was taken down for the construction of a new East Staircase and Balcony that appeared in the original design but had never been built. Photo Credits: New York Transit Museum / MTA
During the renovation, giant scaffolding covered the ceiling while giant advertisements lined the Main Concourse below. In this Before image, you can see a preservationist working on the ceiling. Photo Credits: New York Transit Museum / Grand Central Terminal
The beautiful 60-foot-tall Main Concourse windows were covered during the renovation. In this Before photo, you can see the East side of the Main Concourse before the staircase was built. Photo Credits: New York Transit Museum / Grand Central Terminal
Formerly the Main Waiting Room, Vanderbilt Hall was transformed into a premiere event space during the Renovation. Vanderbilt Hall now hosts several events yearly, including the annual Grand Central Holiday Fair. You can still find the original benches in the Lower Level Dining Concourse. Photo Credits: MTA / Grand Central Terminal
Vanderbilt Hall has seen pop-up businesses come and go over the years, including the news stand you can see in this Before photo. A more permanent dining solution arrived in 2016 when Great Northern Food Hall opened on the West side of Vanderbilt Hall, where visitors dine on Scandinavian specialties in a fast-casual setting. Photo Credits: New York Transit Museum / Grand Central Terminal
With the restoration came a thorough cleaning of the building, including the windows. In this after photo you can see the difference! Photo Credits: New York Transit Museum / Grand Central Terminal
Even the exterior of Grand Central Terminal had to be covered in scaffolding for the restoration. Preservationists carefully touched up and cleaned the famous Transportation Statuary and Tiffany Clock for the restoration. Photo Credits: New York Transit Museum / Grand Central Terminal
Caption: Before the retail development in the 1990s, the Lower Level Concourse was fairly unused. You could grab tickets at the ticket windows or mill about waiting for your train. Now, you can choose from 20 fast casual dining options featuring something for every craving. Photo Credits: New York Transit Museum / Grand Central Terminal
The Dining Concourse has also added comfortable seating for diners, and more exciting restaurant changes are in the works! Photo Credits: Library of Congress / Grand Central Terminal
The Lexington Passage also saw tremendous retail changes during the retail redevelopment. Architects designed updated storefronts to more seamlessly blend with the Beaux-Arts landmark. Now, the Passage is a destination for shopping, beauty, and fashion. Photo Credits: New York Transit Museum / Grand Central Terminal
During the renovation, brighter lighting was added throughout the Terminal, casting a warm glow on businesses and passersby. Photo Credits: New York Transit Museum / Grand Central Terminal
The Campbell Apartment
The Campbell Apartment was originally the private office and reception hall of Jazz Age financier John W. Campbell. After his death, the famous space fell into disrepair, being used as everything from storage to a police holding cell throughout the mid 20th century. It was later restored to its original splendor and converted into an elegant cocktail bar, The Campbell. Photo Credits: New York Transit Museum / Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Reads
Grand Central gets a digital library this summer!
Want to learn more about NYC or Grand Central Terminal? Or just looking to get lost in a great book while grabbing a bite to eat in the Dining Concourse? Grand Central visitors can download free book excerpts using the complimentary WiFi and improved wireless service recently installed in the Terminal by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
Grand Central Reads is a partnership between Grand Central, Penguin Random House, and the MTA. The program features a platform created by Penguin Random House that offers visitors free access to extensive excerpts from the publisher’s award-winning catalog. Visitors can even select reads based on the length of time they have using a special ‘read time’ feature.