The Grand Central that stands today in Midtown Manhattan is not the original (though it is the first known as a terminal). Several earlier versions came before, including its most recent predecessor Grand Central Station. Built in 1898, it had (at least) ten cast-iron eagles that perched on domed clock towers at each corner. Like the scattering of the original Pennsylvania Station’s eagles, many of Grand Central Station’s ended up all over the eastern seaboard following demolition. Some ended up at Gilded Age estates, another at a school, some in public locations inside towns. One, which we recently tracked down, is located inside a petting zoo in New Jersey, known as Space Zoo.

grand central station-architecture-eagles-manhattan-new york city-nyc-untapped cities-brennan ortiz
The earlier Grand Central Station. Photo via Library of Congress.

Space Zoo: Farms and Museum is located in Essex, New Jersey along County Road 519. The eagle, which has been painted, stands atop two pedestals just inside the fence of Space Zoo and can be seen from County Road. According to a sign in front of the eagle at Space Zoo, the eagle weighs 3.5 tons, is 12 feet high, and has a wingspan of 13 feet. How it ended up here has a fun story, which we asked the owners about. Parker Space, the grandchild of Space Zoo’s founder Ralph Space, shared with us the origin of the eagle. She says:

“My Grandfather Ralph Space was a collector of all things. If you ever saw our museum you would know what I mean. Back in 1972, we had a mink farm up by Newburgh, N.Y., in addition to our farm here. He had got word there was an eagle at the junk yard that was bought for scrap metal. He went over and offered the owner a few hundred dollars for it . He loaded it up and brought it to Space Farms. It sat behind our barn for many years until he had it put on a pedestal. He never knew where it came from but figured it had some historical value. Ralph died July 15th, 1986.  Fast forward to 2004, a man named David Morrison came to bring his grandchildren to Space Farms and walked into our zoo and saw the eagle. He explained to us where it came from. His thoughts were it was either the missing Mt. Vernon Eagle or the mysterious 11th eagle.”

David Morrison is the author of the book The Cast Iron Eagles of Grand Central Station, a former Long Island Railroad employee and board member of the Railroad Museum of Long Island. In addition to tracking down the eagles of Grand Central, he also tracked down many eagles of the original Penn Station.

In addition to the zoo, Space Farms has nine museum buildings containing dozens of antique cars, motorcycles, and horse-drawn carriages, along with one of the largest private antique firearm collections in the country. The oldest automobile in the collection, a Buick Model G, dates to 1906. There is also a large doll collection and many Native American artifacts from the area, collected in part because Space Zoo sits in the former site of a Native American campsite.

Join us for our next tour of the Secrets of Grand Central:

Grand Central terminal main atrium

Secrets of Grand Central

Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of Grand Central.