The Grand Central Terminal, an architectural marvel in the heart of New York City, is celebrated its 103rd birthday on February 1. However if it had not been for Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s efforts in 1975, the monument to human achievement in the heart of the Big Apple may not be with us today.
Building began in 1869 after Vanderbilt purchased the property. It became the largest indoor space in New York and the architecturally stunning building became a central hub of the city.
As Sam Roberts, columnist for The New York Times said, Grand Central did more than just transform New York, it became synonymous with America on the move.
However in 1968 the iconic New York building was almost demolished when plans for much needed refurbishments were blocked. The citizens began a stand against the decision.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis began her involvement with the campaign mildly at first by joining the citizens committee at the Municipal Art Society.
A colleague noted, "Jackie brought enormous visibility to the campaign...By standing up and speaking out for the terminal, she made it a success. And she made it not just a struggle involving New Yorkers, but people all over the country."
Jackie brought great attention to the campaign and led the fight by forming the Committee to Save Grand Central Station, and within this committee she participated in rallies at the terminal.
She and a group of campaigners also traveled to Washington, DC to bring attention to the Supreme Court Hearing.
A History of Grand Central Station
1869 was the year that Grand Central first would rise when Vanderbilt purchased property between 42nd and 48th streets, Lexington and Madison Avenue to construct a new train depot and rail yard.
It was reborn in 1900 as "Grand Central Station," the depot’s most prominent feature was its enormous train shed. Constructed of glass and steel, the 100-foot wide by 650-foot long structure rivaled the Eiffel Tower and Crystal Palace for primacy as the most dramatic engineering achievement of the 19th century.
Grand Central Station officially opened its doors on Sunday, February 2nd 1913, with more than 150,000 people visiting the new terminal on its opening day, Grand Central had arrived and New York City would not be the same again.
In 1968 trouble began to brew for Grand Central as Penn Station filed an $8 million lawsuit against the City of New York, blocking the renovation. Jackie makes history as she rallies against changes to Grand Central. By December 1975, Central Station is named as a national historic landmark.
Grand Central, the City’s crown jewel, has become an international example of a successful urban project that gave new life to an historic building which otherwise would have been discarded and destroyed.
CBS News reports that after it was completed in 1913, the New York Times predicted the terminal would eventually handle 100 million people a year. A hundred years later, according to Roberts, that's about to happen. Eighty-two million people passed through last year and with expansion projects underway, the total is likely to reach 100 million in a couple of years.
* Originally published in Feb 2013.