While most people are familiar with the massive celestial mural in Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal (I’ve done two separate articles about it myself), most don’t realize the storied railroad hub is home to another vaulted work of art. Located in the Graybar Passage, between Grand Central Market and the Graybar building, 20 feet above commuters’ heads is an oft-overlooked painting devoted to Jazz Age industry and innovation.
Arguably one of the most famous ceilings in the world, the mural high above Grand Central Terminal’s main concourse is as fascinating as it is awe-inspiring. While much has been written about it (yes, it is mostly backwards and no, no one’s really sure why Orion’s turned the way he is) one detail that seems to be overlooked is in hidden in plain sight, the proverbial fly-on-the-wall. Or in this case, a fly on the ceiling.
Even before Grand Central Terminal officially opened on February 2, 1913 New Yorkers were teased with descriptions of the starry mural that had been painted on its vaulted ceiling, with the New York Times telling of its “effect of illimitable space” and how “fortunately there are no chairs in the concourse or…some passengers might miss their trains while contemplating this starry picture.” While the effect the painting has on commuters today is the same, the mural has undergone significant change. In fact, it’s not even the same mural.