I first fell in love with Grand Central Station when I took the 6 subway from Union Square every day in the early '80s. I was new to New York, and didn't know or care about the preservation battle raging over its destiny. I loved the huge windows, the marble floor, the arched ceiling. The huge Kodak frame dominated the west end of the Grand Hall, with a gigantic photo that changed with the seasons: a red-cheeked boy sledding in winter; spring daffodils; pounding Montauk surf and orange maple leaves; all following in neat seasonal order. The Newsweek clock squeezed between two marble walls was a common meeting spot for me and my boyfriend-turned-fiancé-turned-husband, and I never realized it was not part of the original Grand Central Terminal design.
In 1989 we decided that we needed grass under our toddler's feet. We only looked at towns near the Metro North line so that I could commute into Grand Central instead of unattractive Penn Station. As the Jackie O renovation unfolded during these years, I went crazy for the green sky ceiling with its light bulb constellations that had been covered by soot for decades. The windows were scrubbed to let in the rectangular shafts of light that made those photos of Grand Central Terminal from the '40s so dreamy and powerful. The Kodak sign came down and Charlie Palmer installed my favorite Asian fusion restaurant at the top of the West Grand Staircase. Even the marble floors were polished and fixed. Stores and restaurants were tucked in discretely, and the Holiday Fair became my favorite source of Christmas presents for my relatives back in Chicago.
The pièce de résistance came with the opening of the Grand Central Market, with its fabulous fish, spices, coffees, nuts and meats, all under the umbrella of a huge tree sculpture complete with crystals dangling from its branches to show off the beauty of what had been given back to New York -- a jewel for millions to enjoy.
When the Apple Store supplanted my favorite restaurant, I was afraid that it would cause havoc in Grand Central with frenetic lines. But I'm relieved to report that it has been a charming addition to the station. It is quiet and open and adds a soft nod to technology and the future in this historic building.
Is there anything wrong with Grand Central? The martinis in the Campbell Apartment are expensive: $14.00! The steaks at Michael Jordan's are too big. The Posman bookstore and Pylones attract my attention and my pocketbook too often. But there are now three women's room vs. two for men. Hooray!
Grand Central is nearly perfect. If you have not visited lately, I hope you will stop by to wish it a happy 100th Anniversary. If you have the opportunity to live in or near New York, be sure to include Grand Central Station in your plans. It's a destination for the next century, thanks to the efforts of visionary preservationists of the last century.
Happy Anniversary, Grand Central Station! I love you!