7. The terminal‘s backward ceiling is intentional

Grand Central mural
The reversed Grand Central mural.

The painting of the constellations on the ceiling of the massive, cathedral-like Main Concourse is backward. No one knows for sure how the mix-up occurred, but the Vanderbilt family claimed that it was no accident: the zodiac was intended to be viewed from a divine perspective, rather than a human one, inside his temple to transportation. This contrasted with information published in a pamphlet when the terminal opened that said “it is safe to say that many school children will go to the Grand Central Terminal to study this representation of the heavens.”

After commuters noticed the inversion, creators of the mural, astronomer Dr. Harold Jacoby of Columbia University and painter Charles Basing of the Hewlett-Basing Studio, were asked how the ceiling’s layout could have gotten flipped. Jacoby offered the explanation that the original diagram had been laid out correctly and would match perfectly against a celestial atlas. As such, the diagram was meant to be held overhead. When the image was projected onto the ceiling for painting, Basing (according to Jacoby) must have laid it on the floor and projected it upwards, reversing the image. As for Basing, he “showed little interest in the technical defects and added that he thought the work had been done very well.” The complete truth behind this myth may never be uncovered.

Grand central aerial

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