Grand Central Giants

February 7, 2013

You might have heard that this month Grand Central Station celebrates 100 years. Actually, the place is technically called Grand Central Terminal, but if anyone jumps in and corrects you it’s generally considered okay to kick them in the face. Grand Central has its own thick atmosphere of history and legend; my favorite detail is the analysis of the “soot” that had uniformly blackened the interior until a restoration in the 1990s. Turned out to be not train exhaust, but pretty much pure nicotine. Those lovely photos with the buttresses of dramatic sunlight angling down into the main concourse came courtesy of tobacco.

One detail that’s not always fully appreciated is the enormity of the clock piece decorating the south façade (above). The work, called “Glory of Commerce,” features Roman gods—Hercules, Mercury, Minerva—that are truly colossal. Please note, rest of the world, that the American eagle is tight with these giants. It’s one thing to hear that “Glory” was the largest statuary group on the planet when it was installed shortly after Grand Central opened a hundred years ago. And it’s one thing to hear that the sculpture is fifty feet tall or that Mercury’s head alone reportedly weighs fourteen tons. For me, what really conveys the scale of these giants is seeing puny humans crawl around them. That’s another thing. Like so: