The first Grand Central station in New York was opened in 1871. It combined services for three lines: New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, New York and Harlem Railroad, as well as New York and New Haven Railroad. The station was built on an L-shaped plan, where the shorter edge was parallel to 42nd Street, and the longer one to Vanderbilt Avenue.
The complete remodelling of the station building started in 1903, and was completed 10 years later. The new station was named Grand Central Terminal, and it was opened for service on 2 February 1913. The designers were Reed & Stem – responsible for the neoclassical style of the building, and Warren & Wetmore, who focused on the Art Nouveau decorative elements. The façade with a clock is decorated with an enormous, 49 ft (15 m) high sculpture by Jules-Felix Coutan. Around the clock, which has a diameter of 13 ft (4 m), there are sculptures representing Mercury, Hercules and Minerva.
The heart of Grand Central is the main concourse, 286 ft (87 m) long, 122 ft (37 m) wide and 125 ft (38 m) high. There is an information office with a clock which is probably the most recognisable symbol of the station. Its four faces are made of opalescent glass, and the estimated value ranges from 10 to 20 million dollars.
Grand Central Terminal is a station with the greatest number of platforms in the world – there are 44 of them. They are located on 2 levels: an upper one – with 41 tracks, and a lower one – with 26 tracks. This is only the part intended directly for passengers, since the total number of tracks and platforms used to serve trains is over 100. The station covers an area of 48 acres (19 hectares). Below the station level there is one more platform. It was used only once, to take President Roosevelt from the station the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Grand Central is a mini-city inside the Great Apple. Over almost 100 years it has become a place whose original purpose is only one of its many functions. Between 1939 and 1964, most of the building was used by CBS television. There were also art galleries and the Grand Central School of Art. Presently the building hosts many commercial centres, shops, restaurants, including the oldest one, The Oyster Bar, and even the Commodore Hotel.