Sun Jan 20, 2013, 09:43 AM
UnrepentantLiberal (11,700 posts)
100 Years of Grandeur: The Birth of Grand Central Terminal
One hundred years ago, on Feb. 2, 1913, the doors to Grand Central Terminal officially opened to the public, after 10 years of construction and at a cost of more than $2 billion in today’s dollars. The terminal was a product of local politics, bold architecture, brutal flexing of corporate muscle and visionary engineering. No other building embodies New York’s ascent as vividly as Grand Central. Here, the tale of its birth, excerpted from “Grand Central: How a Train Station Transformed America,” by Sam Roberts, the urban affairs correspondent for The New York Times, to be published later this month by Grand Central Publishing.
By Sam Roberts
The New York Times
January 18, 2013
Grand Central Terminal came to William J. Wilgus “in a flash of light,” he recalled decades later. “It was the most daring idea that ever occurred to me,” he said.
Wilgus, the New York Central Railroad’s chief engineer since 1899, had supervised the costly renovation of Grand Central Depot just a few years before. Born in Buffalo in 1865, he studied for two years under a local civil engineer and later took a Cornell correspondence course in drafting. His creativity and expertise propelled him through the ranks of various railroads and finally to the New York Central.
A fatal 1902 crash, in which the morning local from White Plains had slammed into the rear car of a Danbury, Conn., train stopped on the tracks of the Park Avenue Tunnel, killing 15 passengers instantaneously, had convinced Wilgus that it was no longer possible to run a chaotic railroad yard two avenue blocks wide in what was becoming the very heart of the nation’s largest city.
In a three-page letter to W. H. Newman, the railroad’s president, dated Dec. 22, 1902, the 37-year-old Wilgus recommended an audacious and extravagant remedy: Raze the existing Grand Central and replace the egregious steam locomotives with electric trains.
Construction of the new terminal took over 10 years, with nearly 3.2 million cubic yards of earth and rock excavated.
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100 Years of Grandeur: The Birth of Grand Central Terminal (Original post)
|Cooley Hurd||Jan 2013||#1|