The earlier Grand Central Station. Photo via Roth’s Eye.
From its grandiose Main Concourse with the mesmerizing astronomical ceiling, to the Beaux-Arts details of its granite exterior, Grand Central Terminal captivates as the largest commuter railroad terminal in the world. However renowned, today’s Grand Central Terminal replaced two prior versions: the Grand Central Station of 1898, and the earlier Grand Central Depot. Though smaller and less emblematic, the Grand Central Station held charming architectonic ornaments of its own, such as the cast-iron eagles that once perched on the corners of its four clock towers.
In addition to their patriotic appearance, the eagles were imposing figures with a wingspan of over 13 feet and weighed in at about 4,000 pounds. With their intimidating stance, they loomed over the streets of Manhattan up until the station’s razing in 1902 for the development of today’s Grand Central Terminal. Since then, these massive winged models have been dispersed throughout the city and the state, finding themselves placed atop some of the city’s less notable sights, as well as a few unexpected places.
Many of the eagles were auctioned off to institutions and private estates all throughout the New York region, though not going as far as the 22 eagles of Penn Station. Nevertheless, some of these estates became the subject of division and redevelopment, leading to the eagles’ neglect, and they were further dispelled around the region.
After some time uncharted, individuals interested in the whereabouts of the eagles began tracing their resting places, and although some were found, others still remain at large.Photographer David McLane had located 9 of the Grand Central eages by the time of his death in 1986. Railroad historian David Morrison, who also has been tracking down the Penn Station eagles, was responsible for getting one back to Grand Central. Here is a rundown of where the existing ones are.
Two of the lost eagles were donated to the Metropolitan Transit Authority. They underwent a pricey restoration process and were eventually incorporated into the current Grand Central Terminal’s structure, where they now stand somewhat nostalgically. One of these eagles, which once overshadowed a cluster of azalea bushes in a private Bronxville backyard, now soars atop the Lexington Avenue entrance to the Grand Central Market. The other, rescued from a Franciscan Friar’s monastery in Garrison, NY, was installed above the terminal’s southwest entrance at 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue.