“Americans care about their past, but for short-term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters,” she wrote in a persuasive letter to Mayor Abe Beame.
Within a week of receiving this letter, Mayor Beame issued a statement declaring Grand Central a landmark building. This was one of many victories for the City of New York and for the wife of the 35th President of the United States, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
During her lifetime, “Jackie O”, as she was often called, captured the imagination of Americans with her reserved intelligence and forceful personality. She used her “cause célèbre” by appearing at press conferences, like the one in Grand Central’s Oyster Bar in yesterday’s WomanScape article.
Jacqueline’s ability to lobby local politicians and dignitaries stemmed from her ability to woo Americans, something she had done while living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Her legacy, renovating a tired White House from 1961-63 and sharing it with the public, made her extremely popular. Jacqueline poured her love of design and architecture into the White House and went on to save Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square. After that, she moved to New York City.
So when New Yorker’s needed her, Jacqueline had found a new mission.
She partnered with the Municipal Art Society and helped create the Landmarks Preservation Law in 1965. This lead to her joining the Committee to Save Grand Central Station and in 1978, after many court battles all the way up to the Supreme Court, the Terminal was finally saved.
The photo below shows the newly rebuilt Grand Central Terminal in 1913 from the Getty Library. This is followed by a recent photo from today that shows the modernized Terminal from the inside, thanks to WomanScape photojournalist Denise Benson.
New Yorker’s and tourists continue to appreciate the legacy of Jacqueline’s preservation fight. It is memorialized in a plaque donated by the City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which runs Grand Central Terminal.
In 2014, the MTA honored Jacqueline by renaming the station’s main entrance at 42nd Street and Park Avenue after her.
For WomanScape readers who haven’t experienced a magnificent trip to Grand Central Terminal, we’ve gathered a few interesting trivia highlights at the end of this article for you to test your knowledge.
In addition to this, Did You Know?, we’re also recommending two additional references:
- This link to Harper’s Bazaar writer Kevin Baker, who calls The Near Death of Grand Central, one of the most engaging accounts of New York’s fight against what he called, “the claims of stock jobbers and confidence men.”
- We also recommend watching the historian Anthony W. Robins, and New York Times Urban Affairs Correspondent Sam Roberts, who walk you through Grand Central Terminal’s grand design.
For Robins, “ [Grand Central Terminal] is like a French building dropped on the corner of 42nd and Park Avenue.” It’s architectural design and storied history make for some of the coolest facts and trivia. As you escape to the splendid Indiana marble, grand Parisian staircases, and whispering ceilings in the Pershing Hall, enjoy this 18-minute video tour. It is extremely entertaining and highlights key architectural elements about the terminal’s 147-year history since Cornelius Vanderbilt built it in 1871.
Here are 5 Did You Know? questions to consider before you enjoy the video. Have fun!!
Did You Know?
- The acorn symbols scattered around Grand Central are the Vanderbilt family’s symbol for their own mighty growth.
- Grand Central is a Terminal and not a station because trains start and stop here; every moving train is terminated at Grand Central and it is not a stop on route to somewhere else.
- The celestial ceiling with the constellation in the middle of Grand Central Terminal concourse is upside down and backwards.
- All of the clocks in the terminal are 1 minute off because that’s when the doors to the train departures are closed.
- Most people come to Grand Central Terminal for the food and not to take a train.