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Secrets of Grand Central Terminal

Discover the hidden corners and shady past of Grand Central


Grand Central Station, 42nd Street, New York
David Clapp/Stone/Getty Images

Secrets of Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal, built in 1913 and the largest train station in the world, has a rich history and plenty of secrets. Explore the shady past, the hidden corners, and the many quirks of this New York City landmark.

The Grand Central Whispering Gallery

The "whispering gallery" is located on the Grand Central Terminal dining concourse near the famous Oyster Bar & Restaurant. Here, the acoustics of the low ceramic arches can cause a whisper to sound like a shout. Sound impossible? To test it out, you and a friend will have to stand in opposite corners of the large arched entryway. Now face the corner and whisper. Your friend should be able to hear your voice as if you were right next to them, not whispering into a far-away corner.

According to experts, this happens because the whisperer’s voice follows the curve of the domed ceiling. The Whispering Gallery is a popular spot for marriage proposals – and a unique place to whisper sweet nothings to your main squeeze.

The Secret Passages Under Grand Central Terminal

Underneath Grand Central Terminal, there are secret networks of underground tracks, steam-pipe tunnels, and storage areas. Hidden in these underground depths is a train platform with a secret entrance and an elevator straight up to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt reportedly used this as his private entry into New York City – a way to get from his train to the hotel without being bothered by reporters. Unfortunately, you can’t currently see this secret passage for yourself. The door to the secret elevator is welded shut.

The Grand Central Kissing Room

The Biltmore Room, located on the Grand Concourse across from Starbucks, was known as the “Kissing Room” during the golden age of train travel during the 1930s and 1940s. The Biltmore Room was where the famous 20th Century Limited train from the West Coast used to arrive. Passengers – including many celebrities and politicians – would get off the train and greet their loved ones here with kisses and hugs. Often, they would then go up the stairs into the famous Biltmore Hotel (now the Bank Of America building).

Oh My Stars

The ceiling over the Main Concourse, with its famous mural of the stars, is one of Grand Central Terminal’s most famous features. However, eagle-eyed visitors will notice that the zodiac on the ceiling is depicted backwards.

Some have speculated that this was a mistake by the artist, Paul Helleu. The real reason, according to official documents, is that the painter was inspired by a medieval manuscript that showed the heavens as they would have been seen from outside the celestial sphere.

The famous ceiling has another, more recent, secret. If you look carefully, you will see a patch of dark on the carefully-restored blue of the mural. This patch shows the color of the ceiling before restoration. It was left as a reminder of how much work was done.

Some Gifts Ideas for Grand Central Buffs

Inside Grand Central (DVD) -- This is an amazing National Geographic documentary on the inner workings of Grand Central.

American Experience - Grand Central (DVD) -- This PBS documentary tells the story of Grand Central's history.

Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Engineering, and Architecture in New York City by Kurt C. Schlichting -- Schlichting tells the story of Grand Central from the beginning -- including all of the juicy details of intrigue, politics and scandal.

Inside Grand Central Terminal - A Photo Essay by Kurt Boone -- This engaging memoir and photo essay is written from the point of view of an NYC messenger.

Wrought Iron Double Side Grand Central Station Clock -- This wall-mounted clock makes a great gift for the die-hard Grand Central buff.

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