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Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and Architecture in New York City
     

Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and Architecture in New York City

by Kurt C. Schlichting
 

Grand Central Terminal, one of New York City's preeminent buildings, stands as a magnificent Beaux-Arts monument to America's Railway Age, and it remains a vital part of city life today. Completed in 1913 after ten years of construction, the terminal became the city's most important transportation hub, linking long-distance and commuter trains to New York's network

Overview

Grand Central Terminal, one of New York City's preeminent buildings, stands as a magnificent Beaux-Arts monument to America's Railway Age, and it remains a vital part of city life today. Completed in 1913 after ten years of construction, the terminal became the city's most important transportation hub, linking long-distance and commuter trains to New York's network of subways, elevated trains, and streetcars. Its soaring Grand Concourse still offers passengers a majestic gateway to the wonders beyond 42nd Street.

In Grand Central Terminal, Kurt C. Schlichting traces the history of this spectacular building, detailing the colorful personalities, bitter conflicts, and Herculean feats of engineering that lie behind its construction. Schlichting begins with Cornelius Vanderbilt—"The Commodore"—whose railroad empire demanded an appropriately palatial passenger terminal in the heart of New York City. Completed in 1871, the first Grand Central was the largest rail facility in the world and yet—cramped and overburdened—soon proved thoroughly inadequate for the needs of this rapidly expanding city. William Wilgus, chief engineer of the New York Central Railroad, conceived of a new Grand Central Terminal, one that would fully meet the needs of the New York Central line. Grand Central became a monument to the creativity and daring of a remarkable age.

The terminal's construction proved to be a massive undertaking. Before construction could begin, more than 3 million cubic yards of rock and earth had to be removed and some 200 buildings demolished. Manhattan's exorbitant real estate prices necessitated a vast, two-story underground train yard, which in turn required a new, smoke-free electrified rail system. The project consumed nearly 30,000 tons of steel, three times more than that in the Eiffel Tower, and two power plants were built. The terminal building alone cost $43 million in 1913, the equivalent of nearly $750 million today.

Some of these costs were offset by an ambitious redevelopment project on property above the New York Central's underground tracks. Schlichting writes about the economic and cultural impact of the terminal on midtown Manhattan, from building of the Biltmore and Waldorf-Astoria Hotels to the transformation of Park Avenue. Schlichting concludes with an account of the New York Central's decline; the public outcry that prevented Grand Central's new owner, Penn Central, from following through with its 1969 plan to demolish or drastically alter the terminal; the rise of Metro-North Railroad; and the meticulous 1990s restoration project that returned Grand Central Terminal to its original splendor. More than a history of a train station, this book is the story of a city and an age as reflected in a building aptly described as a secular cathedral.

Editorial Reviews

Choice

The most detailed account yet of one of the most important events in the history of 20th-century architecture, railroad development, and city building.

The Michigan Railfan - David Mrozek
"This biography was a pleasure to read and perhaps even more important was a well balanced presentation."

New York Times Book Review - Eric P. Nash
"Grand Central Terminal is celebrated for its Beaux-Arts style, but Kurt C. Schlichting looks behind the facade to see the hidden engineering marvels... [His] book will deepen anyone's appreciation for New York's most magnificent interior space."

Wilson Quarterly - Tom Lewis
"Schlichting writes with deep understanding of Grand Central's engineering feats and artistic qualities."

H-Urban, H-Net Reviews - Amy G. Richter
"His study peels away our contemporary expectations and experiences and reveals the layers of history and acts of men that served as the foundation for this great structure."

New Scientist - William Mitchell
"Ably tells the story of the New York rail system's most active and visible symbol: the architectural and engineering masterpiece, with its grand public concourse, in the heart of Midtown."

New York History - Paul Malo
"Kurt Schlichting's book is a fitting record of the history of New York City's central landmark, if not a national treasure."

Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians - Amy Slaton
"Kurt Schlichting's history of New York's Grand Central Terminal gathers many actors and events into a clearly written and amply illustrated narrative of American commercial initiative... In his detailed accounts of the fiscal, stylistic, and engineering decisions that went into the creation of especially the second Grand Central Terminal, Schlichting clearly shows both how energetic and talented all of the people involved were and how dramatically they altered this central portion of New York City."

Technology and Culture - Carol Poh Miller
"[A] compelling story."

The Michigan Railfan - David J. Mrozek
"A great read... represents railroad history at its best."

Clifton Hood
Grand Central Terminal is the single most important building in New York City—at once a symbol of corporate capitalism, an architectural landmark, and a critical transport hub. Kurt Schlichting's thoroughly researched, well-illustrated book is the best history ever written on this vital subject. Schlichting's achievement lies in explaining Grand Central Terminal's career and in placing its complicated development squarely in the context of New York City's larger history.
Herbert H. Harwood
A lot has been written about Grand Central Terminal, but this is the first book to take the reader deeply inside the intricacies and agonies that went into creating this remarkable monument. With fascinating insights, Kurt Schlichting explores Grand Central as both an innovative engineering project and a force in shaping the life of the city. His book will give New Yorkers—and everyone else—a new appreciation of just how visionary a project Grand Central was and what a difficult, complex, and sometimes hair-raising job it was to build.
Library Journal
Drawing heavily from the papers of William J. Wilgus (chief engineer of the New York Central Railroad and the genius behind plans for the smoke-free electrified rail system) and other primary-source material, the author combines railroading, structural engineering, architecture, and business history into a very readable text. Schlichting (sociology, Fairfield Univ.) covers a period that begins with Cornelius Vanderbilt's railroad empire and the first Grand Central Terminal in 1871 and concludes with the 1998 renovation of the existing magnificent Beaux Arts structure of 1913. More technical and less visual than John Belle and Maxinne R. Leighton's Grand Central: Gateway to a Million Lives (LJ 12/99), it provides a more in-depth treatment of design and architecture. Libraries can choose which treatment will best suit their potential readers. Jay Schafer, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Schlichting (sociology, Fairfeld U.) examines the herculean task of designing and constructing New York City's Beaux-Arts hub of public transportation, completed in 1913. He details the colorful personalities, bitter conflicts, engineering achievements, and impact on the development of Manhattan. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This story of the design and construction of New York's Grand Central Terminal in 1913 provides a coverage not only of the project and the ten years it took to complete, but its impact on the development of Manhattan. Any with an interest in New York City history will find Grand Central Terminal to be an excellent blend of engineering and social history, packed with details and vintage photos.
New York History
Kurt Schlichting's book is a fitting record of the history of New York City's central landmark, if not a national treasure.

— Paul Malo

New York Times Book Review
Grand Central Terminal is celebrated for its Beaux-Arts style, but Kurt C. Schlichting looks behind the facade to see the hidden engineering marvels... [His] book will deepen anyone's appreciation for New York's most magnificent interior space.

— Eric P. Nash

The Michigan Railfan
A great read... represents railroad history at its best.

— David J. Mrozek

Wilson Quarterly
Schlichting writes with deep understanding of Grand Central's engineering feats and artistic qualities.

— Tom Lewis

New Scientist
Ably tells the story of the New York rail system's most active and visible symbol: the architectural and engineering masterpiece, with its grand public concourse, in the heart of Midtown.

— William Mitchell

Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
Kurt Schlichting's history of New York's Grand Central Terminal gathers many actors and events into a clearly written and amply illustrated narrative of American commercial initiative... In his detailed accounts of the fiscal, stylistic, and engineering decisions that went into the creation of especially the second Grand Central Terminal, Schlichting clearly shows both how energetic and talented all of the people involved were and how dramatically they altered this central portion of New York City.

— Amy Slaton

Technology and Culture
[A] compelling story.

— Carol Poh Miller

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781421411927
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
09/12/2013
Pages:
264
Sales rank:
1,366,032
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Related Subjects

What People are Saying About This

Herbert H. Harwood

A lot has been written about Grand Central Terminal, but this is the first book to take the reader deeply inside the intricacies and agonies that went into creating this remarkable monument. With fascinating insights, Kurt Schlichting explores Grand Central as both an innovative engineering project and a force in shaping the life of the city. His book will give New Yorkers—and everyone else—a new appreciation of just how visionary a project Grand Central was and what a difficult, complex, and sometimes hair-raising job it was to build.

Herbert H. Harwood, Jr., author of Royal Blue Line and Impossible Challenge: The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Maryland

Clifton HoodHobart and William Smith Colleges

Grand Central Terminal is the single most important building in New York City—at once a symbol of corporate capitalism, an architectural landmark, and a critical transport hub. Kurt Schlichting's thoroughly researched, well-illustrated book is the best history ever written on this vital subject. Schlichting's achievement lies in explaining Grand Central Terminal's career and in placing its complicated development squarely in the context of New York City's larger history.

Clifton HoodHobart and William Smith Colleges, author of 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York

Clifton Hood

Grand Central Terminal is the single most important building in New York City -- at once a symbol of corporate capitalism, an architectural landmark, and a critical transport hub. Kurt Schlichting's thoroughly researched, well-illustrated book is the best history ever written on this vital subject. Schlichting's achievement lies in explaining Grand Central Terminal's career and in placing its complicated development squarely in the context of New York City's larger history.

Clifton HoodHobart and William Smith Colleges, author of 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York

Meet the Author

Kurt C. Schlichting is the E. Gerald Corrigan '63 Chair in Humanities and Social Sciences at Fairfield University and a professor of sociology. He is author of Grand Central's Engineer: William J. Wilgus and the Planning of Modern Manhattan, also published by Johns Hopkins.

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