A beloved New York City landmark turns one hundred years old tomorrow, and we are starting the celebration today with the release of the Grand Central Terminal Express Mail stamp. The train station officially opened on February 2, 1913, and was soon recognized as one of the most majestic public spaces in the world.
As much a triumph of 20th-century engineering as it is an architectural masterpiece, Grand Central Terminal is built in the Beaux Arts style, which draws its inspiration from the classical buildings of ancient Greece and Rome. The heart of the terminal is the vast main concourse. Measuring 275 feet long and paved with Tennessee marble, the concourse soars 125 feet high to its vaulted ceiling. Sunlight streams into the space from three cathedral-like, 60-foot-tall arched windows. Commuters and tourists swirl in perpetual motion around the information booth, a popular meeting place topped with its famous clock. Each of the clock’s four faces is fashioned from opal, and the whole timepiece is valued at millions of dollars.
Visitors must look up to see the most striking feature of the main concourse: an astronomical mural that decorates the vaulted ceiling. Constellations and figures of the Zodiac shine out in gold leaf. The mural contains some 2,500 stars, with dozens of the brightest stars illuminated by fiber-optic lights.
Another famous clock is found on Grand Central’s 42nd Street facade, where a massive sculpture by Jules Coutan sits atop the building. The Roman god Mercury opens his arms to the city, flanked by Minerva and Hercules. The group stands 50 feet tall, surrounding a giant clock face made from colorful Tiffany glass.
Grand Central Terminal played a pivotal role during the heyday of rail travel, serving both New York’s suburban trains and glamorous long-distance trains like the 20th Century Limited, a favorite of celebrities and movie stars. But by the 1950s, rail travel was declining. New York’s other great train station, Penn Station, fell to the wrecking ball in 1963. The event galvanized those who wanted to save Grand Central from a similar fate, including prominent New Yorkers such as Jacqueline Kennedy. Although the terminal was eventually spared, in the years that followed, billboards, decades of grime, and a leaking roof marred its beauty. Grand Central was rescued a second time with a series of renovations, culminating in a rededication celebration on October 1, 1998.
The Grand Central Terminal Express Mail stamp is being issued in sheets of ten self-adhesive stamps. You can find the stamp online and in Post Offices nationwide.