This month, New York's Grand Central Station celebrates its 100thanniversary. Goldman Sachs Fellow Allison Marsh uses the occasion to delve into the museum's engineering collections. In Part I, she explored the ambitious plans of William J. Wilgus, the 37-year-old engineer who developed Grand Central Station. Today, she shares highlights from the Archives Center's Guide to the Grand Central Terminal Collection, which documents the decade-long construction process. Grand Central Terminal is receiving anniversary accolades as an architectural masterpiece, but beneath the facade, what emerges is actually a masterpiece of something else: systems engineering.
Memos and correspondence
Celebrating an anniversary gives you a moment to pause and reflect on a finished product, but I would argue that engineering is more of a continuous process. Throughout construction, the station never closed, although some services had to be temporarily relocated. By October 1912, the suburban level terminal opened. On February 1, 1913, over 2,000 guests of the architects were invited to inspect the new terminal before the doors were thrown open to the general public at midnight.
It took several more years to complete key features. For example, the separate arrival station did not open until 1914 and the terminal loop tracks were not finished until 1927. You can pick today to celebrate an engineering milestone, or you can recognize that engineering is an ongoing activity and celebrate the system everyday.
Allison Marsh is an assistant professor of history at the University of South Carolina. She will be at the museum for the next five months uncovering gems in the engineering collections in the Division of Work and Industry. She can be reached at [email protected]