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A GRAND IDEA by Megan Hoyt


How William J. Wilgus Created Grand Central Terminal

by Megan Hoyt ; illustrated by David Szalay

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 2024
ISBN: 9780063064744
Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

A brief account of the iconic terminal’s birth and rebirth.

Hoyt builds her narrative around a profile of William J. Wilgus, the engineer who oversaw Grand Central’s completion, put it on sound financial footing by ingeniously proposing the sale of its “air rights,” and played a significant role in making New York’s railways generally safer. The result is a colorful tale of robber barons, competing architectural visions, and urban development on a truly grand scale. Along with glimpses of the building’s wonders both past (a movie theater, a ski slope, the original red carpet that was rolled out for passengers of the elegant Twentieth Century Limited train) and present, the author gives a nod to the eminently successful efforts led by Jackie Onassis to preserve and restore the renowned historical structure. Szalay’s graciously expansive illustrations are too sparsely populated to evoke a realistic picture of Grand Central’s customary crowds; the scattered human figures are racially diverse. And if the single cross-sectional view of the terminal’s underground is cramped and inadequate, the art overall does capture a good sense of both the massive scope of the construction and the finished building’s majesty, inside and out. Begging a ludicrous claim that the Hudson River is 40 miles away “across town,” closing facts and comments offer further enticements to prospective visitors.

A rare introduction to one of New York City’s more influential but lesser-known builders, and his “Grand” work.

(timeline, source list) (Informational picture book. 7-9)