I’ve always thought Grand Central Station felt like the heart of New York City.
Pulsing with crowds flowing in and out of it’s doors, the beckoning call of a train arriving whistles down the tunnel just as another departs — it’s a dizzying whirlwind of frantic energy. Everyone walks briskly, sometimes breaking into a run as they hurriedly scroll through their morning email inbox, because on New York time, you’re never on time. Admittedly, I don’t pass through Grand Central often enough as none of the subway lines I usually take are near it, but when I do get the chance to just stop and appreciate it, I can’t help but smile at its urgency, its earnestness. Like a well-oiled engine working it’s hardest to fuel the city it loves. Day in. Day out.
Train stations are just so special, aren’t they? Especially ones built closer to the turn of the century — they all share a common regal architecture, Grand Central chief among them. High vaulted ceilings, an elegantly open main hall that feels more like a ballroom than a waiting area and beautiful finishing flourishes like the Glory of Commerce sculpture by Jules-Félix Coutan that sits atop the south entrance. But of course, the true pièce de résistance of Grand Central, in my humble opinion, is the celestial mural on the main concourse ceiling — a vivid depiction of Johann Bayer’s 1603 star atlas Uranometria.
The mural itself has undergone countless renovations and repairs, mainly due to a leaky roof situation and years and years of tobacco smoke staining it heavily. What you see now in the terminal is actually the second version of the mural — painted on boards that now lay on top of the original. But what I didn’t realize, until just the other day when Carter and I were roaming around, is that the actual star layout had been completely reversed by accident — only pointed out after completion by a commuter who noticed all the constellations that should appear in the east were now in the west and vice versa. As she and I moved about the concourse the other morning, dodging the many New Yorkers darting to and fro to their respective trains, I couldn’t help but wonder what it must have felt like to be that random commuter that morning — looking up to notice a subtle but significant mistake in the mural above you, thereby proving sometimes the universe actually is imperfect.
Somehow, irregardless of her imperfections (or perhaps because of them), I, like many other New Yorkers, love the Grand Central mural as she offers something so rare in a city where light pollution is thick and that, my friends, is a front row seat to the heavens.
Have you visited Grand Central Station before? What did you think of the mural?