You guys are going to love this article. I promise. It was written by the best of the best, Mr. Christopher Cobb. I can't even say I am biased, being his wife, because everyone that knows him would agree. He happens to have a fantastic voice for writing (better than his voice for singing- although he would probably object) and I LOVE that he's agreed (after some arm-twisting) to be a monthly contributor for the Classic Chronicles! I always say he has a finger on the pulse, and now he will be sharing it all with you! xo D
(About a 3-minute read)
There are a lot places in the greatest city in the world to kill an afternoon. Take any of our fabulous museums...or getting lost in Central Park...or visiting the Manhattan Mall in all its glory. Just kidding. I know you guys are shoppers, but please don’t go to the mall.
One "must-see" in my mind that doesn’t get the attention it deserves is the architectural wonder that is Grand Central Station. As a Long Island boy whose initial descent on Manhattan always started at Penn Station, (a terminal only a mother could love) it was always a treat to hear we were visiting friends in Westchester or Connecticut. I knew it would be a day that would start and end with a short wandering through Commodore Vanderbilt’s vision for a portal to the rest of America. These days, I take my time to wander through this great cathedral of transportation and even find myself going out of my way to venture through and catch a glimpse of the passing parade of commuters and tourists. Here are six classic things I love about the East Side terminal.
MEET ME UNDER THE CLOCK!
If you’re ever meeting anyone at Grand Central, it would likely be under “the clock.” In the middle of the main concourse of Grand Central sits an information booth, and at the top sits the most gorgeous four-sided ball clock. Some high-end auctioneers have said that it could go for over $10 million if put up for bid. Let’s hope we never find out, as it is way too iconic of a symbol to be parted with. As you wait for your traveling companion, look closely at the top of the clock for a brass acorn which is notoriously known to be the Vanderbilt family symbol. More acorns are spread about the station as well. See if you can spot them!
THE COMMODORE’S HALL
If you’re hitting the main concourse from the 42nd Street entrance, you will pass through Vanderbilt Hall which was actually the original waiting room for the station. Take a look above at the five breathtaking chandeliers. It’s hard to believe you’re entering a century-old train station, but clearly by now, we’ve established that this is not your ordinary station. There’s often an exhibit of sorts worth checking out, like the Grand Central Holiday Fair that literally just opened last week. Also, be on the lookout for acorns. I told you there’d be more.
ON THE HALF SHELL
If you haven’t guessed by now, Grand Central is about as timeless as you get in NYC, so naturally, if you’re ready for some lunch, it’s time to venture to a spot that dates back to 1913… The Grand Central Oyster Bar. There’s generally well over a dozen types of bivalves available, but if you’re not down with the raw stuff, there’s plenty to choose from in the kitchen. Did someone say Clams Casino? You can opt for seating at the oyster bar itself or at an old-school, u-shaped counter. But…the pro play in my opinion is to head back to the saloon and saddle up with one of the salty bartenders for a couple of cold brews and some half-shell wonders. Oh, mama!
POST LUNCH COCKTAILS
Probably the hardest place on my list to find is the one that will offer the best reward upon discovering it. That’d be The Campbell Apartment, which is now known as just The Campbell after a recent change in management. This high-end cocktail bar is named after American financier John Campbell, who established an office in this space back in 1923, where he would work by day and host social gatherings by night. Today, you’ll be privy to a wonderful cocktail menu in a 1920’s-style setting. Look out for the safe hidden in the fireplace. It is indeed the original one owned by Mr. Campbell himself! As for the location of the actual bar, I’ll let you find that out for yourself, but a hint for you: there’s a staircase involved.
Did you catch a glimpse of those beautiful vaulted ceilings on the way out of the Oyster Bar? Stop right there! The vaulted foyer outside of the restaurant holds a little secret. That is, if you’re willing to share one yourself. Go stand in one corner of the foyer and have a friend stand on the opposite side while both of you face the wall. You’ll be 50 feet away, but even at a whisper, you will be able to hear every word as clear as day due to the shape of the ceilings. Just keep an eye out at who’s in those other corners trying to eavesdrop. Fun Fact: Jazz legend, Charles Minger was said to have proposed to his wife Sue using these crazy acoustics.
LOOKING UP AGAIN
Someone once told me that when you find yourself in a new city, look up as often as possible because that’s where the true beauty lies…in the architecture! As you know by now, that could not ring more true than in Grand Central. You have likely seen the constellations mural on the ceiling in the main concourse, but before you move on with your day, head over and take another good, long gaze up at the Paul Cesar Helleu’s 116 year old creation. Striking, moving, breathtaking. Yes, yes and yes. Backwards?! Yes, that too! Many believe it to be a mistake, but Cornelius Vanderbilt once explained that it was to depict a view from above the stars, as if God were seeing it himself. Touche’, Mr. Vanderbilt. Either way, it’s a great way to start or end your little tour of my favorite train station in all the world.