In 1998 the decorated ceiling at Grand Central Terminal
(note to tourists: Grand Central Station is the subway stop below) was returned to its original grandeur after a 12 year restoration, revealing beneath the grime an illuminated depiction of the zodiac.
Contrary to popular belief, the soot on the ceiling was determined to be tar and nicotine, not smoke from locomotives. And thanks to our draconian anti-smoking laws we will never have to worry again about losing that view. Up in the corner, above the entrance from Vanderbilt Avenue
, a patch was left for comparison.
However, the real point of this Look Up!
is not the ceiling, but the large windows on the east and west walls.
Though there was never an attack on the US mainland during World War II
, Grand Central was nonetheless identified as a possible target that required protective measures. There are stories of German spies
scheming to sabotage the secret transformers hidden somewhere below the terminal. The grand windows were painted black as an additional preventative measure, should New York City ever have suffered the same fate as countless European cities during that war.
But what makes these windows particularly special is that they house four stacked corridors that connect private office spaces on the north and south sides. Once left relatively unguarded, they now stand guarded by post-9/11 security that you’d be hard pressed to slip past unnoticed. Only occasionally can you catch a glimpse of someone passing through. But it’s worth a look just to see the amazing oversized gears that synchronize the movement of each of the operable panes to let in natural ventilation.
And while you’re there, be certain to check out the whisperer’s corners outside the oyster bar while you wait for your martini and Wellfleets.