Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Grand Central Then and Now

The New York Times is actually doing some cool shit online, from their 360 degree panorama photos of otherwise inaccessible locations to this (slightly less impressive) "then and now" of Grand Central, which is not two static images as above but an interactive Flash thingy on their own web site. It's interesting that they've chosen to compare today with 1978 - not the original design (which would be a bit cliché at this point).

The funny thing about Grand Central itself in these photos is that I'm not sure which is worse. The Times obviously raves about the current space that's almost "completely free of advertising" compared to the 1978 version, apparently oblivious to the giant banners hanging on the walls today, not to mention the massive American flags literally blocking the views across the hall. I'm pretty sure those weren't included in the original architectural design, and they weren't there in 1978. It's nice to have that kiosk gone from the middle of the floor, but otherwise I think it's pretty much a wash.

Still, I remember the terminal in 1978 (it's among my first memories) and it was kind of a dump. Grand Central is more than just the main hall here that always gets pictured - there's a big waiting room off this hall, then a maze of tunnels that house a market and what amounts to a giant underground mall. Most of it had the feel of a big rundown subway station, and it had all been "updated" with stuff like fluorescent lights and steel doors, so that it looked like what modern stuff looked like in the 1960's, when "modern" really meant utilitarian and ugly. (It still kinda does, doesn't it?)

These days Grand Central's restored mostly to what it originally was, which surprises some people at first because it's not totally what you'd expect. None of the light fixtures are covered, for example - they're just bare bulbs. The designers were showing off when this place was built and electric lights still weren't common. They wanted people to see all those light bulbs.

By the way, some people will tell you it's a mistake to call it "Grand Central Station" rather than "Grand Central Terminal", but they're wrong. It's not a mistake - it's just tradition. See, there was a train station here before this one, only slightly less "grand", and it really was called "Grand Central Station". Old habits die hard in New York City. (The word "station" also has a little romance to it - "terminal" just sounds like somebody's dying.) That name's been passed down through the generations now. We call it that on purpose.

1 comment:

  1. I like the blog, Jeff! I found it while messing around on Facebook. I've added you to the "links" on my blog. The URL is if you're interested. I hope all is well


About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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