Construction begins on the first railroad in New York City, the New York and Harlem Railroad. The first section opened in 1832 and ran between Prince Street and 14th Street in the Bowery. Construction continued in sections until 1852, running north to Chatham, N.Y. The first railcars were drawn by horses. Steam engines were introduced in 1837, to partially replace horses.
The first Grand Central Terminal is built by shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt. The building housed three railroads with separate waiting, baggage, and ticketing areas for each. It was virtually obsolete upon completion.
Years of bans on steam locomotive use in addition to public dismay culminate in a public outcry when a fatal train crash occurs, instantly killing 15 people and injuring 38. The crash occurred in a tunnel where steam obscured visibility. A week after the accident, railroads proposed plans to improve safety. Before the end of the year a proposal was in place to demolish the current station and build a two-level, all electric terminal.
Construction begins on Grand Central Terminal and continues for the next 10 years. Despite the scale of the project, both above and below ground, rail service continues uninterrupted.
The terminal opens its doors to the public. More than 150,000 people visited it that day.
An entire neighborhood begins to grow around the terminal. The Yale Club and the Biltmore Hotel open their doors shortly after Grand Central. Many others follow suit in subsequent years, including the Chanin Building, the Lincoln Building, the Chrysler Building, Hotel Commodore, and the Graybar Building.
The terminal flourishes, remaining the busiest train terminal in the nation. Various art exhibits and events take place in its halls.
More than 65 million people travel via Grand Central Terminal in the course of this year—the equivalent of 40 percent of the United States population.
Grand Central Terminal is designated a landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Committee. The commission was formed in response to the demolition of the original Penn Station.
A proposed tower is to be built atop the terminal with much of the facade to be covered up and part of the main concourse demolished. The Landmarks Commission, backed by several public advocates, blocked the plans. Penn Central, the owner of the building, sues the city.
After nearly a decade of litigation and public advocacy spearheaded by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Brendan Gill, the building was named a national historic landmark, ending the legal debate. Although the building was saved, lack of maintenance became a real threat: the roof was leaking, the ceiling was nearly pitch black from decades of collecting cigarette tar, and structural steel was rusting, among other problems.
A renovation is commissioned by MetroNorth.
A $425 million renovation plan is approved by the MTA.
One of the first renovated spaces opens to the public. Previously used as a waiting room, the hall was converted to a special events and exhibitions space.
Major internal and external renovations are completed, with minor improvements to be made over the next decade. The building is rededicated, to much national and international media attention.
Grand Central solidifies as a true New York City icon—not only in terms of transportation, but its eateries alone draw an estimated 10,000 people daily for lunch. In addition, the terminal becomes one of the most successful shopping centers in the United States.
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