Behind The Scenes

What Was There Before Grand Central Terminal?

This year, the historic Grand Central Terminal turns 100. Designed by the architectural firms of Reed and Stem and Warren and Wetmore, the Beaux-arts style building serves as a transportation hub and tourist destination, with its elaborate astrological ceiling and iconic concourse clock. But New York City was already a destination by 1913. What was at 42nd and Park before Grand Central Terminal was built?

That intersection was still where trains from the  New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, the New York and Harlem Railroad, and the New York and New Haven Railroad docked, but they did so at Grand Central Depot, a station built in 1871 and designed by John B. Snook (whose office sign is in our museum collection).

However, the Depot was “virtually obsolete at the time it opened,” according to Grand Central Terminal’s official timeline, most likely due to the fact that each train line had separate baggage, ticketing, and waiting areas. By 1900, the main building was demolished to build “Grand Central Station,” featuring a 100-foot wide by 650-foot long train shed with a dramatic arched ceiling. But in 1903, construction began on an entirely new building, which would become an icon of the city.

Join us in Bryant Park on July 31 to hear Sam Roberts discuss his Grand Central Terminal and how is transformed America.


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