10. Test Pillars for Grand Central Terminal Are Hidden in Van Cortlandt Park

Grand Central Test pillars in Van Cortlandt Park

Another feature of the park’s railroad-rich history is the collection of thirteen stone columns that stand along the John Kieran Nature Trail. These sample columns were installed to test materials for the construction of Grand Central Terminal. Each made out of a different material and placed inside Van Cortlandt Park on the orders of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt  — along the old railroad tracks, no less —  to test their durability against weathering. Indiana limestone proved to be the most durable and cheapest to transport along the rail lines.

Secrets of Grand Central

Grand Central Clock information booth

For decades, the pillars were covered in graffiti, deteriorated, and surrounded by overgrown forest. Earlier this year, thanks to funding from the Paul and Klara Porzelt Foundation, the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park were able to partner with the Municipal Art Society (MAS) for a Grand Central Stones Restoration Project. The goals of the project were to clean and restore the Grand Central Stones, improve landscaping, improve access and carry out long-term maintenance. The work was carried out by the Tatti Art Conservation. As the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park states, “By ‘restoring’ the stones, we had layers and layers of graffiti and paint Parks had used to cover the graffiti cleaned off of them. They are still weathering naturally.”