Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal (GCT)—often incorrectly called Grand Central Station, or shortened to simply Grand Central—is a commuter rail terminal station at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States. Built by and named for the New York Central Railroad in the heyday of American long-distance passenger trains, it is the largest train station in the world by number of platforms: 44, with 67 tracks along them. They are on two levels, both below ground, with 41 tracks on the upper level and 26 on the lower, though the total number of tracks along platforms and in rail yards exceeds 100. When the Long Island Rail Road's new station opens in 2016 (see East Side Access), Grand Central will offer a total of 75 tracks and 48 platforms. The terminal covers an area of 48 acres (19 ha).

The terminal serves commuters traveling on the Metro-North Railroad to Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties in New York State, and Fairfield and New Haven counties in Connecticut. The terminal used to be served by Amtrak, but in 1991 their trains moved to nearby Pennsylvania Station as a result of the completion of the Empire Connection.

Although the terminal has been properly called "Grand Central Terminal" since 1913, many people continue to refer to it as "Grand Central Station." "Grand Central Station" is the name of the nearby post office, as well as the name of a previous rail station on the site, and it is also used to refer to a New York City subway station at the same location.

According to the travel magazine TravelLeisure in its October 2011 survey, Grand Central Terminal is "the world's number six most visited tourist attraction", bringing in approximately 21,600,000 visitors annually.

The Main Concourse is the center of Grand Central. The space is cavernous – 275 ft (84 m) long, 120 ft (37 m) wide and 125 ft (38 m) high – and usually filled with bustling crowds. The ticket booths are located in the Concourse, although many now stand unused or repurposed since the introduction of ticket vending machines. The large American flag was hung in Grand Central Terminal a few days after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The main information booth is in the center of the concourse. This is a perennial meeting place, and the four-faced clock on top of the information booth is perhaps the most recognizable icon of Grand Central. Each of the four clock faces is made from opal, and both Sotheby's and Christie's have estimated the value to be between $10 million and $20 million. Within the marble and brass pagoda lies a "secret" door that conceals a spiral staircase leading to the lower level information booth.

Outside the station, the clock in front of the Grand Central facade facing 42nd Street contains the world's largest example of Tiffany glass and is surrounded by sculptures carved by the John Donnelly Company of Minerva, Hercules, and Mercury and designed by French sculptor Jules-Felix Coutan. At the time of its unveiling (1914) this trio was considered to be the largest sculptural group in the world. It was 48 feet (14.6 m) high, the clock in the center having a circumference of 13 feet (4 m).

The upper level tracks are reached from the Main Concourse or from various hallways and passages branching off from it. On the east side of the Main Concourse is a cluster of food purveyor shops called Grand Central Market.

In autumn 1998, a 12-year restoration of Grand Central revealed the original luster of the Main Concourse's elaborately decorated astronomical ceiling. The original ceiling, conceived in 1912 by Warren and Paul César Helleu, was eventually replaced in the late 1930s to correct falling plaster.

This new ceiling was obscured by decades of what was thought to be coal and diesel smoke. Spectroscopic examination revealed that it was mostly tar and nicotine from tobacco smoke. A single dark patch remains above the Michael Jordan Steakhouse, left untouched by renovators to remind visitors of the grime that once covered the ceiling.

There are two peculiarities to this ceiling: the sky is backwards, and the stars are slightly displaced. One explanation is that the constellations are backwards because the ceiling is based on a medieval manuscript that visualized the sky as it would look to God from outside the celestial sphere. According to this explanation, since the celestial sphere is an abstraction (stars are not all at equal distances from Earth), this view does not correspond to the actual view from anywhere in the universe. The stars are displaced because the manuscript showed a (reflected) view of the sky in the Middle Ages, and since then the stars shifted due to precession of the equinoxes. Most people, however, simply think that the image was reversed by accident. The ceiling was deliberately[citation needed] painted in reverse by the artist Giovanni Smeraldi.

When the Vanderbilt family learned the ceiling was painted backwards, they maintained that the ceiling reflected God's view of the sky.

There is a small dark circle in the midst of the stars right above the image of Pisces. In a 1957 attempt to counteract feelings of insecurity spawned by the Soviet launch of Sputnik, Grand Central's Main Concourse played host to an American Redstone missile. With no other way to erect the missile, the hole was cut so the rocket could be lifted into place. Historical Preservation dictated that this hole remain (as opposed to being repaired) as a testament to the many uses of the Terminal over the years.

source and more information: wikipedia