I’m not often a tourist in New York but today was a blissfully free day so I joined the throng. I’ve never spent much time in Midtown. Never worked or socialised there. It’s mostly been a part of town to get through not to stop in. But this time I’m staying near Grand Central Station, so I decide to take a closer look and took the walking tour. It’s obviously a great feat of early 20th century ambition, imagination and engineering, but I think it’s also just one of the great public spaces of the modern world. The current structure was built in 1913 and is a Beaux Arts triumph. But it fell out of favour as air travel became more popular and it was only saved from demolition after a 10-year battle in the 70s by a group championed by none other than Jackie Kennedy and architect Philip Johnson. Now fully restored by current operators Metro North, it’s a “beautiful ballet” of human activity with the business of trains really only glimpsed through elegant arches. There’s also an amazing mix of heart, art and technology here as iron, steel granite, Botticino Marble, Portland Stone and Tiffany Glass combine to create the impression of elegant efficiency. Of course I don’t have to catch a train twice a day. I’d never get past the Oyster Bar. Or The Campbell Apartment on the way home.

Words and pictures by MT Rainey

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