Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America

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Overview

A rich, illustrated - and entertaining -- history of the iconic Grand Central Terminal, from one of New York City's favorite writers, just in time to celebrate the train station's 100th fabulous anniversary.

In the winter of 1913, Grand Central Station was officially opened and immediately became one of the most beautiful and recognizable Manhattan landmarks. In this celebration of the one hundred year old terminal, Sam Roberts of The New York Times looks back at Grand Central's...

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Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America

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Overview

A rich, illustrated - and entertaining -- history of the iconic Grand Central Terminal, from one of New York City's favorite writers, just in time to celebrate the train station's 100th fabulous anniversary.

In the winter of 1913, Grand Central Station was officially opened and immediately became one of the most beautiful and recognizable Manhattan landmarks. In this celebration of the one hundred year old terminal, Sam Roberts of The New York Times looks back at Grand Central's conception, amazing history, and the far-reaching cultural effects of the station that continues to amaze tourists and shuttle busy commuters.

Along the way, Roberts will explore how the Manhattan transit hub truly foreshadowed the evolution of suburban expansion in the country, and fostered the nation's westward expansion and growth via the railroad.

Featuring quirky anecdotes and behind-the-scenes information, this book will allow readers to peek into the secret and unseen areas of Grand Central -- from the tunnels, to the command center, to the hidden passageways.

With stories about everything from the famous movies that have used Grand Central as a location to the celestial ceiling in the main lobby (including its stunning mistake) to the homeless denizens who reside in the building's catacombs, this is a fascinating and, exciting look at a true American institution.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Roberts delivers the story of one of the most famous transportation hubs in the world and how it shaped Midtown Manhattan into the bustling, thriving center of commerce and entertainment it is today. This is also a history of railroads in New York, from horse-pulled streetcars, to steam engines, to the electric trains brought to the city by Grand Central's chief engineer William Wilgus. Credited with being the first person to monetize "air rights", Wilgus conceived of Grand Central as a 12 story building with the terminal below and 2.3 million square feet above to be rented out to businesses. Roberts, the New York Times's Metro Matters columnist, covers the details of the construction of Grand Central as well as its massive renovation in the 1990's. He describes the massive changes in Midtown area after its initial construction, including the arrival of luxury hotels and office towers. "With Grand Central acting as an anchor," he writes, "Park Avenue was elevated into New York's most prestigious address." A wonderful volume for New York City history buffs or railroad aficionados, Roberts closes with discussions of some of the terminal's quirks and mysteries like the ubiquitous decorative acorns, the secret staircase, and various secret underground locations.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A middling account of the architectural splendor that is Manhattan's Grand Central Station. "Modern time began at Grand Central," writes New York Times urban affairs correspondent Roberts (A Kind of Genius: Herb Sturz and Society's Toughest Problems, 2009, etc.), an aper├žu he repeats a few times in his paean to what is certainly America's definitive, if not greatest, railway terminal. The author observes that it was the need of the new railroads to observe an established schedule that resulted in standardized time--no news to readers of Wolfgang Schivelbusch, that great historian of technology, but a useful gauge all the same in explaining why a railroad station should merit our attention. There are other reasons, which Roberts attentively enumerates: In the instance of Grand Central, which indeed pioneered standardized time and has lived through a few incarnations since ground was broken for the modern structure 110 years ago, it contains the world's largest piece of Tiffany glass, to say nothing of "the largest sculptural grouping in the world" and a ceiling that famously invokes the vastness of the firmament. Roberts closes his rambling, almanaclike narrative with an account of where the ceiling painter went wrong; apparently, railroad officials explained that "the celestial mural represented God's view." There's nothing wrong with an assemblage of oddments and answers to common questions, as any trivia buff will tell you, but at times, Roberts' book resembles an infodump of semidigested notes; this is nowhere more true than in the section on Grand Central in popular culture. Still, the book is inarguably populated by a fascinating cast of characters, from the barons of the late Gilded Age to Jackie O. Grand Central deserves a deep history as good as the World Trade Center got with James Glanz and Eric Lipton's City in the Sky (2003). This isn't it, though railway-history buffs may enjoy this book.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781455525966
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/22/2013
  • Pages: 303
  • Sales rank: 179,172
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sam Roberts is an urban affairs correspondent and Metro Matters columnist for The New York Times, and, as such, has become something of the face and voice for the city at large. He is the author of numerous books, including The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case. Sam is frequently heard on NPR.
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Table of Contents

Foreword Pete Hamill ix

Prologue: The Accidental Terminal 3

Rails vs. Rivers 23

The Commodore 35

The Depot 49

The Station 59

The Engineer 69

Terminal City 97

All Aboard 113

Gateway to a Continent 127

Saving Grand Central 159

The Restoration 189

The Characters 209

Commutation 227

Secrets of Grand Central 233

How it Works 257

Since 2001: A Space Odyssey 269

Epilogue: The Second Century 283

Acknowledgments 290

Art Credits 291

A Note on Sources 292

Bibliography 293

Index 297

About the Author 303

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 15, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Fine Book. Extremely unusual problem!

    This book tells you all you want to know ... and more ... about Grand Central. The lengthy history is fascinating, and one can only marvel at the perseverance and enterprise of the principals of the New York Central. After living through the horrible desecration of the Main Hall by advertising/promotional gimmicks during the 1960's/70's, it's such a joy to see the marvelous restoration and the care with which it is being maintained. Pathetic about the disappearance of the glorious wooden benches ,,, but you can't have everything. Now, getting down to the unusual problem. This is the first time ever (and I'm 81 yrs old) that I've purchased a book -- brand new -- that is about to fall apart before it's even read. For some mysterious reason, pages 127-132 are hanging by a mere thread and ready to detach themselves from the binding! How in the world can this have happened? In any case, I'm handling it very carefully.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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