Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Grand Central Terminal Collection

Collection ID:
New York Central Railroad/Penn Central Railroad Companies
bulk 1903-1933
Physical Description:
8 Cubic feet
6 boxes, 10 map-folders
Collection documents the history of the demolition and construction of Grand Central Terminal with a focus on the period 1903 to 1913.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Grand Central Terminal Collection documents the history and construction of Grand Central Terminal and the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad terminal in Manhattan. The collection covers a wide range of activities with the bulk of the material dating from 1900 through the 1920s. Some of the more notable materials include bound volumes of blue-line photographs documenting the construction progress of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Terminal.
The collection contains several black-and-white photographs, the most remarkable of which are four undated photographs depicting large crowds of New York Central Railroad employees at a celebration in Victory Way featuring towering pyramids of captured German helmets. The collection also contains several drawings previously held by Donald H. Morrsion, a terminal engineer and the collection's donor. The plans for a proposed 55-story office building to be erected above Grand Central Terminal are accompanied by Morrison's notes.
Perhaps the most important drawings are the shaded elevations of the building's exterior where bronze grill work is set off in color. Detailed drawings of the entablature sculptures document changes that took place as the design evolved. Other topics include floor plans for rental space, track plans, details of structural steel work, utility diagrams, and the new power house. Several newspaper clippings detail the public debate over the conservation and preservation of the historic site. The conflict over the historic status of the terminal ended in a Supreme Court decision (Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City, 1978), upholding the terminal's historic landmark status, thus barring construction. Numerous blueprints of the main station and the station building (1907-1920) are part of the collection.
Series 1, Historical Background, 1850-1961, contains materials on the history of Grand Central Station and its construction. It is divided into five subseries: Subseries 1, Histories, 1850-1961; Subseries 2, Newspaper and Magazine Clippings, 1904-1920; Subseries 3, Donald H. Morrison Materials, 1910-1978; Subseries 4, Miscellaneous, 1831-1920; and Subseries 5, Booklets and Pamphlets, 1851-1935
Subseries 1, Histories, 1850-1961, consists of a partially handwritten and typed draft of Grand Central History, dividend certificates, a 1961 thesis for Cornell University entitled "The Harlem Railroad Improvements in Manhattan," handwritten notes on the history of the construction of Grand Central, and correspondence from the Chief Engineer of Crugers Station (a station on the Hudson Line of the Metro-North Railroad which served the residents of the hamlet of Crugers, New York until its closure in 1995) pertaining mostly to maintenance and improvements.
Subseries 2, Newspaper and Magazine Clippings, 1904-1920, contains several magazine articles and newspaper clippings, including several from Engineering News, as well as an October 1912 issue of Scribner's Magazine entitled "The Modern Terminal."
Subseries 3, Donald H. Morrison Materials, 1910-1978, includes the collected materials of Donald H. Morrison, terminal engineer for the New York Central Railroad/Penn Central Railroad. The subseries contains typed notes with corresponding drawings and photographs and various magazine and newspaper clippings. Also included are several drawings of the originally planned hotel/office space to be built above Grand Central Station (175 Park Avenue) as well as correspondence from Coverdale and Colpitts, consulting engineers for the proposed building.
Subseries 4, Miscellaneous, 1831-1920, is comprised of several hand-written minute books, memos, data sheets, and memoranda as well as laws and ordinances. Also included are several letters from the Chief Engineer and a typed draft of The Grand Central Terminal New York City: History of Its Development and Construction. Subseries 5, Booklets and Pamphlets, 1851-1935, provides a wide array of booklets and pamphlets published for or by Grand Central and New York Central/Hudson Railroad, including An Act to Regulate, Improve, and Enlarge Park Avenue Above 106th Street, published in 1898.
Series 2, Construction Materials/Reports, 1897-1933, consists of various materials pertaining to the construction of Grand Central including Construction Committee Minutes, Engineer's Notebooks, and Correspondence. The series is divided into eight subseries: Subseries 1, Annual Reports, 1913; Subseries 2, Minutes 1915-1916; Subseries 3, Notebooks, 1903-1914; Subseries 4, Correspondence, 1897-1929; Subseries 5, Reports, 1905-1916; Subseries 6, Financial Expenditures, 1903-1933; Subseries 7, Agreements, 1899-1912; and Subseries 8, Specifications, 1906-1919.
Subseries 1, Annual Reports, 1913, is a bound volume of the Annual Reports for several railroad companies and their leased and controlled lines together with additional statistical, financial, and corporate information for the use of their officers" published by Grand Central Terminal in 1913. The volume contains annual reports for: New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Company; Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway Company; Michigan Central Railroad Company; Lake Erie and Western Railroad Company; Chicago, Indiana and Southern Railroad Company; Toledo and Ohio Central Railway Company; Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad Company; Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railroad Company; Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Company.
Subseries 2, Minutes 1915-1916, includes a previously bound, set of typed Construction Committee Minutes for the Electric Traction Zone from December 28, 1915 through December 20, 1916.
Subseries 3, Notebooks, 1903-1914, contains a collection of the Construction Engineer's Notebooks organized chronologically. The books consist of mostly handwritten notes as well as copies of various estimates, a minimal number of blueprints, daily material records, and copies of work progress reports.
Subseries 4, Correspondence, 1897-1929, documents correspondence regarding the Park Avenue Viaduct between the Chief Engineer(s) (H. Fernstrom and his successor G.W. Kittredge) and various other engineers, the fifth vice president of New York and Hudson Railroad Company, and Ira McCormack, the manager of Grand Central Station. The correspondence is divided into two parts and organized chronologically. Also included are various correspondences dealing with vibration tests and reports as well as Electric Division files.
Subseries 5, Reports, 1905-1916, details the progress of the New York Central Railroad in 1914 through a series of daily reports. Also included are the daily reports of the pyle driver from April to July of 1911 and the Contractor's daily reports from 1914-1916.
Subseries 6, Financial Expenditures, 1903-1933, includes estimates for the Grand Central Terminal improvements in 1906 and various hand-written financial documents detailing quarterly expenditures.
Subseries 7, Agreements, 1899-1912, contains the construction grant and agreements between the city of New York and New York Central, Harlem, and Central Hudson Railroads for the years 1905-1912 as well as a 1915 "Agreement, Deed, Specifications and Modifying Agreement" between Now York State Realty and Terminal Company, New York Central Railroad Company, and the New York, New Haven, and New Hartford Railroad Company with the city of New York.
Subseries 8, Specifications, 1906-1919, is comprised of several undated construction specifications for the improvement of the Grand Central Terminal as well as various memorandum and monthly progress statements pertaining to the improvements. It also includes an undated chart of the number of passengers in and out of the Grand Central Terminal based on ticket sales, traffic records, and a report of data concerning American Railroad Terminals written in 1914.
Series 3, Photographs, 1880s-1929, documents the progress of the construction and various later improvements of Grand Central. The majority of the photographs are blue-line photos to detailing Grand Central yard improvements. Also included are various black-and-white photographs. The series is divided into two subseries: Subseries 1, Progress Photographs (by volume), 1903-1921 and Subseries 2, Miscellaneous Photographs, 1880s-1929, undated.
Subseries 1, Progress Photographs (by volume), 1903-1921, includes several previously bound volumes of blue-line photographs documenting the progress of Grand Central yard improvements. There are seven volumes (1-6, 11) with photos are numbered chronologically. Also included are progress photographs for construction and improvements of Grand Central Terminal in 1914 and progress photographs for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad for 1903, 1917, and 1920.
Subseries 2, Miscellaneous Photographs, 1880s-1929, undated, contains previously bound blue-line progress photographs of Grand Central Terminal from 1912-1913 and black-and-white photos of the terminal, railways, and various tunnels as well as demolition photos. Undated photos of employees of NY Central Railroad assembled in Victory Way with a view of a pyramid of captured German helmets and Grand Central Terminal are also included.
Series 4, Drawings, 1884-1969 (bulk 1902-1913), constitutes the largest series in the collection and consist of flat and rolled drawings. There is a bound volume of contract drawings and drawn monthly progress sheets for the Grand Central yard improvements. The series primarily contains hundreds of individual drawings/sheets. Included are maps, charts, plans, sectionals, details, and elevations for almost every aspect of the terminal.

The collection is arranged into four series.
Series 1, Historical Background, 1850-1961
Subseries 1, Histories, 1850-1961
Subseries 2, Newspaper and Magazine Clippings, 1904-1920
Subseries 3, Donald H. Morrison Materials, 1910-1978
Subseries 4, Miscellaneous, 1831-1920
Subseries 5, Booklets and Pamphlets, 1851-1935
Series 2, Construction Materials, 1897-1933
Subseries 1, Annual Reports, 1913
Subseries 2, Minutes, 1915-1916
Subseries 3, Notebooks, 1903-1914
Subseries 4, Correspondence, 1897-1929
Subseries 5, Reports, 1905-1916
Subseries 6, Financial Expenditures, 1903-1933
Subseries 7, Agreements, 1899-1912
Subseries 8, Specifications, 1906-1919
Series 3, Photographs, 1880s-1929
Subseries 1, Progress Photographs (by volume), 1903-1921
Subseries 2, Miscellaneous Photographs, 1880s-1929, undated
Series 4, Drawings, 1884-1969 (bulk 1902-1913)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
New York City's Grand Central Terminal was constructed between 1903 and 1913 to replace an earlier and smaller depot at the same location. The earlier structure was completed in 1871 and by the end of the 1890s it was badly in need of remodeling. This, however, was only a stop-gap measure as it would not provide a solution to many of the problems the railroad faced. The building could not provide the office space needed by the growing railroad, trains still traveled to the station in an open cut, and trackage at the terminal was simply inadequate to handle the ever-increasing number of departures and arrivals. Simply building a new station, however, would not necessarily solve the problem.
Other improvements were needed, and these were made possible by the use of electric traction. With the elimination of steam powered equipment, it was possible to construct and operate an extensive system of tracks completely underground and erect buildings over them. This scheme meant that the new terminal could be designed with any amount of office space, and by constructing the tracks at different levels, a greater number could be accommodated than would be possible by building them all at the same grade. Although the terminal project was awarded to architects Charles A. Reed and Alien H. Stem, they were soon joined by the firm of Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore. A number of drawings in the collection reflect this union. The history of the station has been documented by several authors. Grand Central Terminal (San Marino, 1977) by William D. Middleton and Grand Central (New York, 1946) by David Marshall.

Alison Oswald
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated to the Division of Engineering and Industry (now known as the Division of Work & Industry), National Museum of American History, Smithsonian, by Donald H. Morrison in June, 1990.
Processing Information
Processed by Kendra Ciccone (intern), Kimberley Rowe (intern), Neendoniss Adams (intern), and Alisha McCullick (intern); supervised by Alison Oswald (archivist).
Custodial History
Transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Work and Industry, May 2007.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Grand Central Terminal Collection, dates, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.

Related Materials
Materials at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian
Division of Work & Industry
The New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Records, circa 1886-1912, 1968
Materials at Other Organizations
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library Columbia
Warren & Wetmore Drawings & Archives
New York Public Library
Penn Central Transportation Company Records

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Transportation -- New York (N.Y.) Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Engineers Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
New York (N.Y.) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Railroads -- 20th century Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- 1900-1920 Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings -- 20th century Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Grand Central Terminal. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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