tv How a Train Station Transformed America CSPAN August 30, 2015 8:00am-9:01am EDT
[applause] sam: thank you. thank you for coming. i was at ed concha's memorial service. bill clinton came in with papers like this. he said i want to assure you this is not the eulogy. we still have grand central terminal. we came close to not having it. fortunately it was saved. i will answer any questions you
might have. when i began this book and met with my colleagues at grand central publishing we came up with the title, "grand central -- how a train station transformed america." then i went home and said did it? that is an ambitious agenda to have to live up to. i realized that it easily did that. the more i researched the book, the more i realized this was a transformative place. stop and think if you go anywhere in the world and say this place is like grand central station, everybody knows what you are talking about. it is a metaphor for frenzy, chaos, people recognize it all over. grand central has been the side of ransom demands, homecomings, hope filled send offs, the
target of nazi saboteurs, terrorist bombs. passengers have included presidents, kids left for summer camp, and soldiers who went to war. everyone has a favorite grand central moment. ben cheever whose father chronicled the suburban commuter, said it is as inviting as a rich person's house with the doors thrown wide open. the concourse is larger than the nave of notre dame cathedral and yet it is strangely inviting. even as a child on my dismal way to brooks brothers to be fitted for a flannel suit that would chafe the skin of my thighs, i did not feel diminished. brian selznick discovered hugo, the book and film character at grand central.
growing up my father would take me around the city. in the 1950's i was standing on one of the platforms in the train terminal looking up at this gleaming locomotive. new york central number 371. i still remember. the engineer leaned out of his cabin said do you want to come drive this thing? what could be better than this? so he helped me on his lap, put my hand on the throttle, and the engine chugged forward to-three feet. to me, it seemed like a mile. i was driving a locomotive in grand central station. i assume when i started working on this book i knew everything there was to know about it. i learned so much and i keep learning. every time i give a book talk like this someone comes up to me at the end and says did you know that so and so? so it is a learning process that goes on and on, and like my day
job at the "times," i'm sort of getting paid for getting a postgraduate education. technically grand central is a terminal. but the word terminal conjures up endings. grand central was a place of beginnings, not the least of which is its own. it is a terminal because trains terminate there. railroad people like to recall the rube who asks whether the train stopped at new york city to which the conductor replied, there would be an awful crash if it didn't. well, you couldn't tell that story about pennsylvania station. for all its splendor, one person described it as reducing new york to a two-minute stop on the line from long island city to new jersey.
terminal suggests a destination. it has been a gateway to new york since 1913, and the city's opening to the continent. for those of us who came from places where grand central station was a radio program, new york was no mere city. it was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of love and money and power, the shining dream itself. i'm not sure how many of you remember, i don't, but every saturday morning on cbs radio and announcer would in tone as a bullet seeks its target, shining rails in every part of our country are aimed at grand central station, heart of the nation's greatest city, drawn by the magnetic force of the fantastic metropolis, day and night, great trains rushed toward the hudson river.
sweep down its eastern bank. flash briefly by the houses south of 125th street. dive into the two and a hlaf mile tunnel beneath the avenue. and then, grand central station. crossroads of a million private lives, gigantic stage on which are played a thousand dramas daily. just imagine listening to that on the radio and the image that would conjure in your mind. since then the terminal has threaded itself into popular culture even more. "mad men's" roger sterling
forged himself on oysters and martinis there. cary grant called his mother from a phone booth before fleeing town on the 20th century limited. animals romp in the main concourse in "madagascar." a tightrope walk beneath the station. it was one of the first multiuse buildings. stores, offices, all the diversity of a city within the confines of one building. i have to admit i'm not sure i believe this story but "holiday" magazine recalled the exploits of a newly married couple whose trained to niagara falls was canceled. so they honeymooned at grand central. they got a room at the biltmore,
they dined, danced, took advantage of the terminal shop, and did all this without ever seeing a train. even more amazingly they returned a year later to celebrate their wedding anniversary. grand central was home to the first cbs television studio. "what's my line" came from there. "the goldbergs" came from there. unfortunately, some time later in the 1950's when television sets got better, people realized when the screen was shaking it wasn't their set, it was the vibrations from the trains moving in and out of the terminal. so the cbs studio had to move to west 57th street where it is today. there were great trains like the 20th century limited. we all know about red carpet treatment. the term, which goes back to ancient times, was popularized on the 20th century limited. every night when that train left, porters would roll out a red carpet the length of the platform and passengers would go down that carpet on the way to the train, like traveling on the
queen mary or the queen elizabeth, just going cross-country. standard time was born at grand central terminal. there were something like a hundred different time zones in the united states until charles dowd, a boarding school principal at what became skidmore college, came up with the idea of establishing 4 time zones. grand central was the first place where that was begun. one of the things i discovered in my research is some years later charles dowd was killed in an accident upstate. he was run over by a train of all things. unfortunately history does not tell us whether the train was on time. [laughter]
sam: grand central was a civic monument. it was the result of a merger between two architectural firms. one was reid and stem which sounded like a landscape firm. alan stem was the brother-in-law of william, the chief engineer of the railroad. they hired them to build grand central. whitney warren came on the another architect, whitney warren's connections trumped those of alan stems. it is not who you know, it is who you know. each of the architectural firms brought a lot to the equation. you could make an argument the sum of what they did was greater than its parts. when the original grand central was built in 1871 the new york times said this place is neither grand north central.
why would they build on 42nd street in the middle of nowhere? the city was mostly below canal street, below houston street. what was the station doing uptown there? we look at the history, the vanderbilts delivered midtown manhattan to their doorstep. they shifted the entire center of gravity of manhattan to midtown. and that was all the result of grand central. they develop something else at grand central, which again we take for granted. ramps. ramps instead of stairs, so people, travelers with baggage would not have to schlep up and down stairs. a lot of people had no idea what ramps were. one magazine harkened back to julius caesar and said these were the earthworks the ancient romans built when they were
invading a walled city which they used to get up to the ramparts, hence ramps. the notion of air rights, which has been monetized, worth billions of dollars, coming into play as the mayor wants to rezone part of the corridor, air rights were invented at grand central. the original vision of this terminal was to deck over park avenue, and by doing that he created an monetized this real estate. one thing we forget is the train tracks created this giant gash in the middle of manhattan. they ran from lexington, all the way of to 59th street in an open, submerged train yard.
in the middle of manhattan. they decided to deck them over. that just change the entire face of manhattan. landmark presentation, we will go into that. as paul said, grand central became the poster building for every landmark in the united states. the whole notion of landmark preservation as a legal principle was enshrined at grand central. on of the things i learned is the terminal began by accident, by an accident in 1902. a train coming out of that park avenue tunnel in the fog, snow, rain, the dark, the soot and cinders couldn't see a light in front of them, a control light and crashed into another train, killing two dozen people.
the "new york times" wrote as slowly the harvest of death rate in the hole under the york streets is being garnered in the homes of new rochelle, the townsmen are beginning to ask each other not how this occurred, but why. the why was simple. engineers could not see through the soot and coal burning locomotives in that tunnel. the railroad was terrified it and its officers were going to be liable if not for this accident, then the next one, the next one being inevitable. they decided to electrify the railroad. by electrified the railroad they were able to do two things that otherwise never could have happened. they were able to build a double deck terminal with a lower level and an upper level that no longer had to be an open train shed for all the air to circulate, and they could deck over those train yards on park avenue, creating a boulevard,
creating land the waldorf astoria. residential buildings worth billions of dollars then and now. grand central was built as the world's largest rail terminal. 44 platforms, accommodating 67 tracks. bigger than penn station ever was. one of the things near central was looking at was over his shoulder, at this place going up on the west side, penn station. electrification meant something important to the pennsylvania railroad. they were the coke and pepsi of railroads. total fierce competition. at that point the pennsylvania railroad dropped its passengers off in new jersey. and they had to take a ferry
across to manhattan. electrification meant they could build a tunnel under the hudson river. and they did that and then they built a tunnel under the east river to connect to the long island railroad. that was another reason the new york central realized it had to build a giant, majestic, grand central terminal in the middle of manhattan. in 2011, metro-north became the nation's busiest commuter railroad. we might not think of it is that but it actually surpassed the long island. this book is not just about the building. it is the biography of grand central, it is about people. william, the chief engineer who came up with this ingenious plan to build grand central. brian henry, a metro north cop who befriended the homeless.
audrey johnson who fields customer complaints. the most frequent, guess what, where's the restroom? how do i get out of here? there are so many passageways. and the third, a tribute to good taste, where is the apple store? people can't find it because it is so subtly woven into the fabric of the terminal. and to people like jacqueline onassis who played a role in the saving of the grand central terminal. she had a long history of historic preservation. when the dam was being built in egypt, the kennedy administration gave funds to preserve the antiquities. the egyptians said we would like to give you something in return for that. jacqueline picked to the temple, and little did she realize she
would be living on fifth avenue across the street from the temple, and one of the things i learned is when she had a dinner party, she could call across the street and the metropolitan museum would light up the temple of dendor for her and her guests. that is clout in new york. [laughter] sam: one day when the city look like it had lost the suit for a landmark preservation, the penn central raoilroad sued the city to avoid the designation. they wanted to build a skyscraper on top. the city was not going to appeal the ruling, which i didn't know. the city said it was going to be held liable for damages from the railroad if it appealed and lost. and those damages could come up to maybe $80 million, which was a lot of money.
jacqueline onassis read the story in the "new york times" learning of the plan for an appeal, and she called the municipal art society. lori beckelmen was an intern and picked up the phone, and yelled over to the head of the landmark preservation, there's a woman who says she is jacqueline onassis on the phone, and of course it was. one of the things i enjoyed researching the book was discovering secrets of grand central terminal. you see all these bare lightbulbs on the marquee, these giant chandeliers with bare light bulbs. couldn't they afford crystal or globes?
was deliberate. the vanderbilt for showing off electricity. they were saying this is not gas or some other means. we have lightbulbs, which were still relatively new. they festooned them all over the place. another thing you see, the decorated motifs, acorns. it turns out acorns were on the family crest, the invented family crest of the vanderbilt. why acorns? because from little acorns mighty oaks like the vanderbilts grow. one of the mistakes, the biggest mistake, though most don't know it, it was noticed a couple of days after the terminal opened by an alert commuter, the ceiling. 25,000 square feet of mistake. the constellations are backwards. now exactly why they are backwards no one is quite sure.
the best explanation is the columbia university astronomer who devised the sky chart assume d they would hold them over their heads and paint. they put it down and painted. what you see actually is a heavenly view of the constellations rather than a bottom-up view from the concourse. i was at a lecture a couple of weeks ago and pointed out that there is also a rectangle that you can spot on the southwest corner of the ceiling. very small. it is the color of these microphones. what it is was a deliberate attempt to show before and after what that ceiling looks like before it was cleaned in the 1990's. what's interesting is when the engineers went up to say why is the ceiling this black, they
assumed it was from the cinders and soot and smoke from the locomotives. it turned out it was from tar and nicotine of smokers. someone pointed out to me, did you notice which constellation the rectangle is near? nicotine? it is next to cancer. [laughter] sam: the train boards, the departure times are wrong. if you ever miss your train, please, don't call me at home. the 1:52 to white plains on that train board really leaves at 153. the railroad gives you an extra minute to race. don't take a chance if you don't
have do but every one of those train departure times is wrong. i discovered who the owner of grand central is. who do you think it is? i assumed it was new york state. it is a guy who never played with electric trains. he was not invited to the grand central centennial gala because he was so obscure. he bought from the successor of the penn station railroad, his company mid town trackage ventures bought grand central station and leases it to metro-north. it is a 200 year lease so you do not have to worry. metro-north has an option to buy the terminal in 2018 and probably will do that. metro-north pays $2.5 million in rent to this man, andrew penson, a publicity shy owner, and they say that doesn't sound like much.
the fact is, metro-north also agree to take over all of the environmental liabilities, which were considerable for an industrial railroad like the new york central was. the whispering gallery. i always thought this was one of those urban legend. you know, something people make up. if you stand outside the oyster bar and you can see people doing this, it is a little bizarre, they are standing and whispering into the wall. the parabolic tiled ceiling developed by raphael carries that sounds over 40 feet to the other end of the gallery and you can hear people clear as a bell. it is remarkable. you walk down there, going to the oyster bar and use these people talking to the wall and say only in new york. [laughter]
sam: grand central also has the deepest basement in new york. it is 90 feet deep. deeper than the world trade center, then the federal reserve gold falls. it is where the transformers are that change the current from alternating current to direct current to drive the trains. what is even more fascinating is in a couple of years when the long island railroad opens, that basement will be 140 feet deep. 14 stories deep alone the street level. colson whitehead in "the colossus of new york" wrote "as the earth cools, grand central bubbled up three miles of magma, in the crest of this island, settled here the first immigrant
still unassimilated." that may be an urban legend because tiffany says they have no record of that. the limstone sculptures of minerva and hercules were considered the largest sculptural grouping in the world. recently, the lincoln building across the street from grand central originally named for lincoln, was rechristened grand central place in an affirmation of the terminal cachet, imagine naming something after grand central in the 1970's or 1980's. the hotel is now the weston grand central. metro-north estimates 10,000 people come to grand central every week day to eat.
and rents that the railroad makes because it made grand central into a destination gross $27 million a year, which subsidizes the railroad. instead of succumbing to the desperately shortsighted survival strategy of destroying the terminal and building a skyscraper above it, it was reconstituted in the original architect's vision as a grand public space. the architect created a convincing expression of the belief the goals of capitalism are not inimical to the enhancement of the public realm. and then the metropolitan transportation authority, not what you would expect, square the circle, demonstrating the
public realm and capitalism could not only coexist, they could thrive together. grand central, the product of bold architecture, brutal flexing of corporate muscle, no other building i think it epitomizes the partnership that melded the best instincts of government with public spirited private investment. there are inevitable comparisons of course with penn station. mike wallace, the cowriter of "gotham," said grand central was arguably the more transformative of the two stations.
in the rearrangement of manhattan's social geography. the central cover provided an underpinning of the pride of park avenue apartments and a haven for new york super rich. the super rich had been on the run for over a century as one island of upper-class debility after another. washington square, union square was overrun by common people. the park avenue structures provided a stability of the rich have never known in new york. the establishment of the upper east side helped draw hotels, department stores, luxury shops. it channeled commuting members and affluent suburbs to the north, back to midtown each day. this provided an incentive to relocate their. vast numbers of tourists fostering a burst of hotel construction, restaurants, theaters. and finally the terminal itself was a powerful midtown magnet. it's soaring concourse, barrel vaulted roman bath. its staircase as grand as the
paris opera's. the romance of the 20th century limited service, all crucial factors in shifting the city's cultural and commercial center of gravity to its doorstep. in "you can't go home again," thomas wolfe wrote of the late, lamented penn station. "great slant beings of light fell ponderously on the station floor, as the calm voice of time rolled over the walls and ceiling of that room." today, penn station is a different place. vincent scully summed up what had been lost when he said "one
entered the city like a god. one scuttles in now like a rat." paul wrote that it was never as overpowering or as grandiose as penn station and that may be why it survived. it wove its way into the fabric of new york's the so subtly, so -- new york city so subtly, so tightly, it could not be ripped out. the real brilliance of the place for all its architectural glory is the way in which it confirms the values of the urban ensemble. today the sound of time it paul wrote that it was never as overpowering or as grandiose as reverberates in grand central, and more than any other place that i can think of, it embodies the voice of the city and the rhythms of urban america. thank you so much for listening. and i will be happy to answer any questions you might have. [applause]
>> folks, we will have a microphone and we will go around. any questions? sam: there is one. >> hold on a minute. sam: i would like to introduce the man who made this book possible, the great photographs in it, the chief photographer for this book and the former photographer for the metro-north railroad, frank english. [applause] >> can you tell me how the trains turn around? sam: how the trains turn around? another innovation at grand central. two loops go under 40th street. so the trains coming into the station terminal could turn around and head out. this was usually more important for long-distance trains than current ones.
most have cabs, motorman's cabs at either end anyway as they come in and go out the other side. it was an innovation at the time there are two loops there. grand central is said to have the safest men's room in america on the lower level because it was built to withstand a train zooming off the tracks of one of those lower loops. so, you know, i don't think anything more need be said about that. [laughter] >> thank you so much for your presentation. at the risk of throwing the tension off of the current building, say a couple of words on if there were any outcries to
the previous internations of grand central. sam: we think of grand central as a landmark, and thank goodness it was saved, but there were two incarnations at least a grand central before that, built in 1871 and 1899. it was rebuilt, the original grand central depot. they named it grand central station. after the train accident in 1902 william walters said it had to be torn down. they did not need this gorgeous open train shed because there was no more smoke from the electrified locomotives. and they could also deck over park avenue. i don't think there was much of an outcry. it was one of those things where the place had just been renovated a few years before. here in 1903 they decide they're going to tear it down and build another place.
once people saw the plans, they realized it was far superior to anything that had been there before. >> what did the critics say if anything concerning construction of the pan am building, which changed the beautiful profile of the building looking south? sam: it is interesting because william had this grand vision for terminal city, a civic center that was going to be an opera house. ultimately, in that new york central building, on the north end of grand central, past the pan am building was added later. but you are right. it is one of the two places i can think of, at least in manhattan, that provide a real
vista like that. you can look at grand central. you can look at fifth avenue at washington square arch. there are not many other places like that. the pan am building was built to make money. they tore down an old baggage handling place north of the station and put up the pan am building. what was fascinating is when the penn central was arguing against the landmark designation, it was like a kid who is accused of killing his parents and says, hey, have mercy, i'm an orphan. because the lawyers for the penn central said this has already been ruined as a landmark by the pan am building, which they had built. so why worry about putting up another skyscraper? it was not a persuasive argument.
most people -- and believe it or not the pan am building was adapted to the site and made to be less mammoth then it was going to be originally. it still sticks out like a sore thumb. >> i'm curious. there are some wonderful railroad terminals in other cities. washington, philidelphia, boston. what is the chronology? was grand central before, after, where the examples for these others? sam: there were a bunch that were contemporaneous. the big ones were roughly, if i'm correct, the early part of the 20th century. but most of the modeling for grand central was not on other railroad terminals. that made it unique.
it borrowed from the bozart school of architecture, the french version, the grand staircase was modeled after the paris opera. penn station is described as being inspired by the baths of the two levels, the ramps, the walkways, the sky windows, and and innovation where you have form and function together, letting light in, letting air in, allowing people to walk from one part of the building to the other, i find it unnerving frankly to walk on a glass floor. but people do that. it is one of the great sites of grand central, seeing those silhouettes of people going by between offices and corners of the building. much of it is original.
the viaduct around the buildings of park avenue, here is a building stuck in the middle of the street grid. now traffic and get around it. most of that was innovative and ingenious at the time. >> questions in the back on the right hand side? >> i don't know whether this is a legend but i'm curious. i read that his mother was involved with grand central station. when she was in paris she spoke to her brother and told him about the electric train. sam: you are close. it was alexander, the head of the pennsylvania railroad. i believe he was indeed mary's brother.
>> [indiscernible] sam: yes, right. there is a bust of him in penn station. he envisioned penn station. what's so interesting is that penn station never has the same impact on midtown that grand central did. we had a post office, macy's, a couple of hotels, the pennsylvania, the new yorker. none of that sweeping reconstruction revival of grand central. >> i think grand central is the best meeting place in the city. you are never lost. sam: absolutely. meet me under the clock -- i had
to have so many people meet me at the clock. when i met people at the clock i would meet someone else who i hadn't planned to meet. [laughter] sam: it is like being in the town square of new york, everyone goes by. i don't know how accurate this is but something like 700,000 people passed through every day. every weekday. when grand central opened, the "new york times" said someday this is projected to handle as many as 100 million passengers. in 2011, before sandy, it got up to 82 million and growing. it will probably hit that hundred million in not too many years.
>> i want to know it they are environmentally friendly. and [indiscernible] sam: two questions. the bulbs, are they environmentally friendly? that is a problem. when the railroad wanted to put in bulbs that were environmentally friendly and energy-efficient, the landmark preservation commission said you can't put those fluorescent bulbs in. they had to find someone to have all that were a little oval. 1944, there were nazi saboteurs who landed and they rendezvoused at grand central terminal. more specifically they went into the newsreel theater to catch up on war news. talk about the banality of evil. it is not entirely clear whether grand central was one of their targets for sabotage or not.
one other thing that i forgot to mention at grand central that justifies the subtitle of how it transformed america, the civil rights movement was nurtured at grand central. the sleeping cars brotherhood began among the porters of grand central, meeting in harlem. >> i was going to ask you about that newsreel theater. when it started, how long it lasted. did edison have any connection with that? sam: i don't know. i don't think edison had a connection. it started in the 20's or the 30's. it kept going into the 1950's or early 1960's.
>> i was taken to that theater as a child. sam: it is the perfect thing for people waiting for people. you might not have time to see "gone with the wind" or "doctor zhivago," but certainly you can go in and see a couple of newsreels. >> could you tell us where the newsreel room is what it is today? sam: it is a retail store. i think it is in the gray bar passage. something else that i just discovered recently, because standard time began at grand central, there is a clock, you can see this clock and under the clock engraved in the marble it says eastern standard time. the railroad was so proud of the fact that eastern standard time
had begun at grand central. now that is now wrong when it is daylight time. they don't cover up the sign. the sign still says eastern standard. >> can you tell us, are there any plans to have a day when you can have one of the old train still functioning, that we can do a ride on? the films playing at different booths, is there some place can see those? sam: there will be an ongoing exhibit at the transit museum. possibly the one in brooklyn. frank, do you know? there is an exhibit in vanderbilt hall of the history of the terminal.
one of the interesting things, about that room, you just learned so much, walk through that room and the floor is for road -- forrowed. -- furrowed. people would be on the benches with their feet going back and forth impatiently waiting for trains and carved furroughs in the floor. >> i wanted to know the story,
if it is true that there is a train car underneath grand central terminal that they use to get to the waldorf astoria in a special elevator that no one could see he was handicapped? sam: that is a matter of conjecture. there is a train car, it looks like a freight car. it could well have held fdr's car. it is the size in which a car would it. the car was at grand central. no question. i looked at secret service logs from the 1940's to confirm this. roosevelt took a train to the waldorf and went up in a private elevator into the hotel. this was during the war. in part to hide the fact that he had polio. it is not clear whether that baggage car actually was used for his vehicle. one of the things in researching the book that i discovered, is whenever the president of the united states is in town now and staying at the waldorf, there is a fully manned train running
under the waldorf under to whisk them out of town in case he requires an emergency means of exgress. some biological attack or accident. there is a train waiting on duty manned 24 hours a day when the president is in town. >> i wanted to answer that lady's questions about where was the grand central theater. if you going to grand central terminal and you see there is a wine store, a liquor store, that is where grand central theater used to be. if look on the ceiling, there is a sky --
sam: you can see a mural there. >> that is where the entrance was. >> jacqueline kennedy brought the forces together to save the station. i wondered if you would know how she was able to garner, to bring the energy together, what people did she now, what influence specifically did she have to bring this about? sam: the power of public opinion. the city was this close to not appealing the court decision that said it overstepped its bounds in declaring grand central a landmark.
now we debate whether the mayor can ban 32 ounce soft drinks. then it was a question of can the city exercise its police power? the declaring it a landmark and borrowing the penn central railroad from building a skyscraper constitute a taking under the law? she read the story ends called the municipal art society, and with the municipal art society, with philip johnson, with fred koch, with a number of other people, rallied public opinion and galvanized the movement to save grand central. did that influence the court decisions? one never knows. judges are somewhat swayed by public opinion but it created momentum to keep the appeal going, which it did until it was 1978 when the supreme court ruled and said this landmark law is valid and set the stage for landmark preservation all over the country.
>> did anything ever happen to the benches in the waiting room? sam: to the benches in the waiting room. there are still some benches in the much smaller waiting area near the station master's office. i guess the west side of the terminal. very small, some of those benches are there. i don't know what happened to the other benches. they were these great mighty oak from little acrons benches. i will find out. that is another thing i would have learned researching the book. >> i wanted to answer that lady's question. the other benches. sam: why don't you come up here.
>> the reason i know these is i'm tour guide. they are in the middle of the staircase that goes down from the top. that is where some of the other benches are. sam: the staircases, there is a secret staircase. it reminded me of the orson welles movie "the third man" where he disappears into the kiosk and winds up in the sewers of vienna. there is a spiral staircase which you never see, there is a little door that opens and it is one of those fascinating things. another thing, that great staircase, the marble staircase on the eastern end of the main concourse, when they were renovating grand central in the 1990's they discovered the
original plans there was supposed to be a twin staircase. it is not clear why that wasn't built. the prevailing wisdomw was they figured who was going to go to the east side? there were 10 immense, why do we need another staircase for? when you are restoring a landmark, can you put something back that wasn't there? that triggered an enormous philosophical debate about landmarks and preservation. they did put it there. it is gorgeous. it had to conform to the americans with disabilities act. >> any other questions? >> i once read that one of the
early people involved in the station actually lived there. that true? sam: one of the people lived there. the campbell apartment, which is a great place to drink and watch yuppies drink, mr. campbell was on the board of the new york central railroad. he had a company that was the precursor to a credit rating company. he did not live in that apartment. he transported a medieval palace from italy or france and had it re-created there. he did not actually lived there. i can't vouch for the fact that he never took a nap there, but he was an eccentric character.
-- but he lived in an appartment and later in a house in connecticut. he was an eccentric character. among other things he used to work at his desk with his pants off because he was so obsessed with not having them wrinkled, he would take off his pants and hang them when he was at his desk. i'm not sure if you would want him getting up to greet you. that was mr. campbell. >> any questions? >> could you speak to the possible coming transformation of the area around grand central? do you have any thoughts one way or the other? sam: mayor bloomberg wants to rezone the area, upzone it so that there could be more taller buildings. one problem is a lot of those buildings are probably
anachronistic. they are old, not suited for high ceilings, for the internet. there are some landmarks in that area, leaver house, the waldorf is one. there are some buildings that ought to be landmarks. the roosevelt hotel. they may be declared landmarks. the municipal art society has identified 17 landmarkable properties in that area. the mayor wants to get this done before he leaves office. there is no question some of those might be threatened by an upzoning. this is a city that has always been evolving. there was no outcry when grand central was torn down in the early 1900s. some of these buildings may have to go for new construction if there is a market for it.
i think the market forces will determine that more than anything. i'm not sure the market forces are there for it immediately given what is going on downtown on the west side in the hudson yards project. that is a lot of new space coming online. >> returning once said -- flor nce said she had only one holly m that was her husband. , tonight owning the series "first ladies," governing the public and private lives of the women who served as first ladies. from more for washington to michelle obama. from martha washington to michelle obama. rights,ht on "human
things institute senior fellow brookings institute senior fellow talks about afghanistan. >> the u.s. to achieve improvements in security but it depends how it ends and here is where i hesitate and increasingly intricate and question myself because we do not know how it will end. but its an opportunity is possible, five years down the road, they will be back in a new civil war in afghanistan. isis is slowly emerging in the country, worse than the. the telegram is -- then the taliban. the taliban is deeply entrenched. and itill be new havens could be worth the price.
>> tonight at 8:00 eastern and pacific on the c-span's "q and a." the new york city landmarks preservation commission was created to protect places in the city of cultural and architectural significance. next, andrew dolkart of columbia university speaks on the history of the commission and the obstacles it has faced over the years as well as the criteria and process for designing a landmark. the skyscraper museum in new york city hosted this program. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] ms. willis: welcome. i'm the founder and director of the skyscraper museum. i want to welcome you tonight to a lecture that will elevate the the 50th year anniversary of the landmarks preservation
commission and is occasioned by the book that is the catalog for the exhibition called "saving place" which is on view at the museum of the city of new york. through september 13. i hope you will go see that exhibition. andrew dolkart is the co-curator for that exhibition, and he has a very long history with new york city landmarks and architectural history. i think this has gone off now, has it? all right. andrew is a good friend of long-standing, as we like to say, rather than old friend, but we do go way back. this is one more lecture at the skyscraper museum, which has been going on in a relationship now for probably nearly the 17 years since the museum was started. andrew is always there when you call on him to talk about new