Thursday, August 21, 2008

Grand Central Station

Summertime means travel time. I'm lucky when it comes to travel. I've seen many of the world's landmarks up close and personal. Places like the Eiffel Tower, The Acropolis, Vatican City, Ayres Rock, Franz Josep Glacier, Norte Dame and Big Ben. For the next few postings I want to share some lesson plans I use for my students as I present some of America's outstanding landmarks and places of interest. So get your luggage packed and gas-up your mental car because we're off. Today, let's go to Grand Central Station:

Grand Central Terminal (GCT, often called Grand Central Station) is located at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City. It is the last of three train stations that have stood on this site. The present-day building was built by New York Central Railroad as a way to outdo the arch-rival Pennsylvania Railroad and smaller railroad lines. It is still the largest train station in the world by number of platforms, 44, with 67 tracks along them. The station has two levels, both below ground, with 41 tracks on the upper level and 26 on the lower. It is used by almost half a million passengers each day on over 550 trains.

The station was opened in October 1871. The original design had the main terminal for passenger services and offices on an "L" shape with a short leg running east-west on 42nd Street and a long leg running north-south on Vanderbilt Avenue. A glass ceiling (called a train shed) covered platforms and tracks. But between 1899 and 1900, the main terminal was torn down and an entirely new facade put on it. The tracks and the train yard was redesigned to make turn around time quicker and the reconstructed building was then renamed Grand Central Station.

In 1914 French sculptor Jules-Alexis Coutan created a 48 feet (15 m) high clock in the center off the terminal with a dial that was 13 feet (4.0 m) wide. It depicted the God Mercury with Hercules and Minerva on both sides and was carved by the John Donnelly Company. It is the station’s symbol today.

The construction of Grand Central created a mini-city within New York, including the Commodore Hotel and office buildings inside the station and was one reason the Chrysler Building was built in the neighborhood. In 1928, the New York Central Railroad built its headquarters in a 34-story building (now the Helmsley Bldg) on the north side of Park Ave. From 1939 to 1964 CBS television had studios above the station’s main waiting room. In 1947, over 65 million people, 40% of the population of the U. S., traveled through Grand Central. But by the mid-50’s railroad travel was becoming a thing of the past, due to government subsidized highways and intercity plane traffic.

Grand Central and the neighborhood around it fell on hard times during the financial collapse of railroads and the near bankruptcy of New York City itself in the 70‘s. Amtrak ended its contract with the station in 1991 and moved to Penn Station. MTA came to the station’s rescue in 1994. It signed a long term lease on the building and began renovations that finally finished in 2000. The station serves commuters traveling to counties in New York and Connecticut. Grand Central Terminal was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1976. Find out more about the station at:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here's one of my poems that can blow its own horn:

Nine Ounces, Said The Strange Dream

Then later, the lakeshore laps in & out of a coma until
all the love & combat in the world is required to
wear a raincoat over itslips. In an attempt to
help, a hand draws clouds on a blank sheet
of white paper over the real face. But
a splash disrupts the stillness,
causing muse to become a
sponge-bath. And that
fistful of air you
thought washer
blouse turns out
to be a rainy night
in Georgia trying to pass
itself off as a mud puddle. The
swarm of flu you thought was a snot
rag or maybe trapped in the refrigerator
of your pocket, settles as fog thick enough to
shut down the sea, or even worst, the loose jaw of
a sunroof, drunk & passed-out beside the reek of a drainage ditch.

Poem first published at:
Poem Copyright 2008 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.


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