Grand Central Depot, 1880 with horse-drawn carriages waiting to pick up arriving passengers.Photo from New York Public Library

The Grand Central Terminal of today stands as a beautiful and iconic building. It has its fair share of mysteries and secrets, and nearly had a completely different look. However, besides its name changing from depot to station to terminal, Grand Central has actually undergone some vast changes since its beginning as Grand Central Depot in 1871.

The site before Grand Central Depot was built, in 1864. The rocks in this photo marked the location of the new station. Photo from New York Public Library.

Grand Central Depot in 1880. Photo from New York Public Library.

It was originally built with two tracks reaching north to Harlem from the station at 42nd street, as steam locomotives were not allowed past that point by law.

Photo from New York Public Library

 Photo from New York Public Library.

As the population swelled in NYC, the station’s two tracks struggled to keep up with the daily commute as it was the only rail system to enter Manhattan.

The building around the train shed was torn to the ground and a larger six-story structure was put in its stead. Completed in 1900, this would nominally be the first Grand Central Station.


Grand Central Station. Photo from Library of Congress.

This building stood until 1902 when two trains suffered a head-on collision, killing 15 people. This catastrophe led to a public outcry against steam locomotives and a subsequent restructuring of the station.

The trains were changed to be electrically run, allowing them to run underground and to stack ingoing and outgoing trains. Construction of the new building—the one that stands today—finished in 1913. While the subway is technically still a station, the main building was named Grand Central Terminal as it was the end of the train lines.

Grand-Central-Terminal-Interior-1913-vintage-Untapped-CitiesGrand Central Terminal west balcony, taken between 1913 and 1930. Photo from Library of Congress in Wikimedia Commons.

Join us for an upcoming tour of the secrets of Grand Central Terminal:
Tour of the Secrets of Grand Central Terminal

Next, read about the Top 10 Secrets of Grand Central Terminal.

 Grand Central Terminal, vintage photos

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