A Heritage Turning Point: New York’s Grand Central Station (1903-1978)

Issue: Station and Urbanity


Grand Central Station in New York was inaugurated in 1913 replacing the old station which was considered to be dilapidated. At the same time, the railway company developed a real estate project over the tracks along what would become Park Avenue. The link between that area of Manhattan and the railway station is thus an articulation of the interests of rail economic strategy and urban development. From the early 1950s, this link between the railway station and the city became more complex as different groups of actors opposed each other over the future of the station. Through opposition to urban projects and legal battles for landmark preservation, the case of Grand Central represents a turning point in how railway stations have been considered in cities. The controversy around the preservation of Grand Central marks a transition from a techno-economic conception of their spaces to a more immaterial conception which uses architectural quality and the symbolic place of the station at urban and national scales to justify its preservation.
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