This year, Grand Central Terminal celebrated two significant milestones that changed the course of history for the landmark building: the 40th anniversary in June of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that saved the Terminal and the 20th anniversary this October of a renovation that restored the iconic landmark and transformed it into a retail and dining destination. The Terminal is marking these moments with a series of events, beginning with a 40th anniversary photo installation and tastings from Grand Central shops and restaurants this month and capping off the celebration with an exhibit in September.
“Grand Central Terminal demonstrates the lasting benefits that come from investing in infrastructure,” said MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota. “This investment in a terminal that has become an international treasure connects its past to its future, as we are seeing with numerous infrastructure improvements happening all over the city, including at One Vanderbilt, the East Side Access project, and with Moynihan Station.”
June 26th marked 40 years since a Supreme Court ruling preserved the building’s historic landmark status and prohibited the construction of a 53-story office building overhead. The historic campaign to rescue Grand Central was led by several notable New Yorkers organized by the Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS), including former First Lady and MAS Board Member Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, for whom the renovated main entry foyer on 42nd Street and Park Avenue is named. By effectively saving the building, the ruling opened discussions to consider major improvements to Grand Central, which had been falling into disrepair. To celebrate the anniversary, Grand Central Terminal and New York Transit Museum are partnering with the Municipal Art Society of New York, which is celebrating its own milestone — 125 years of protecting and preserving the city’s legacy spaces and encouraging thoughtful planning and urban design. Grand Central will host an exhibit by the Municipal Art Society of New York reviewing 40 years of Grand Central history mid-September through mid-October in Vanderbilt Hall.
“MTA Metro-North Railroad is proud to serve as the steward for Grand Central Terminal, an iconic landmark that is recognized across the globe for its grandeur, historic significance and importance as a world class transportation hub,” said Metro-North President Catherine Rinaldi. “Every day, the majority of Metro-North Railroad’s customers and visitors from around the world pass through Grand Central Terminal. The Terminal is central to the lives of millions of people, offering not only safe, reliable, and convenient train service to customers, but premier shops, restaurants, and events.”
While the Supreme Court ruling saved the building, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s multi-phase restoration served as its rebirth. For the restoration, the MTA retained Beyer Blinder Belle as its architectural consultant to assist in returning the neglected building to its original grandeur. Significant renovations included the cleaning of the vaulted constellation ceiling and the building’s marble, a new Main Concourse East stairwell that appeared in the original design but had never been built, heating and air conditioning capabilities, and the development of quality restaurants, food vendors, and shops. The renewed Terminal officially reopened its doors to admirers, shoppers, and diners on October 1, 1998, and was celebrated with a Rededication Ceremony, marking the turning point of when the once grand building became a destination again. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, Grand Central shops and restaurants will offer 1998 pricing on a number of products and menu items all day October 1.
“The Supreme Court decision to protect our history helped create a center of commerce that invites the public to appreciate and experience a landmark building, in a way like no other,” said Concetta Bencivenga, director of the New York Transit Museum. “Saving, maintaining and restoring New York’s history is as valuable as developing retail. With Grand Central, the two go hand-in-hand.”
To commemorate the past, present, and future of Grand Central, the public will be invited to participate in a series of events June through October. The events and activities underscore the Terminal’s impact on New York and its continued vitality as a treasured public space.
Anniversary events include:
- An exhibition in September by the Municipal Art Society of New York in partnership with the New York Transit Museum in Vanderbilt Hall telling the story of the Committee to Save Grand Central’s historic advocacy campaign and sharing before-and-after photographs of the 1998 restoration.
- A series of tasting events all summer long, starting with Taste of the Terminal June 26 through June 28 where the public can enjoy free food and product samples, a 40th anniversary photo installation, and live music in Vanderbilt Hall. Additional tasting events will take place in Grand Central Market in July and the Dining Concourse in September.
- Musical acts will entertain the public with the throwback sounds of the 1990s in the “Dining Concourse in Concert” lunchtime music series taking place weekly on Tuesdays in July and August.
“These anniversaries mark key turning points in the Terminal’s history. The campaign to save Grand Central ultimately saved New York’s Landmarks Law itself, and affirmed the constitutionality of preservation statutes nationwide,” said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of MAS. “The subsequent renovation and retail transformation of the Terminal is one of the most successful place-making investments in recent memory. Grand Central today is an extraordinary urban ecosystem all its own, attracting hundreds of thousands of commuters, tourists, and passersby every day.”