Commemorating John Belle’s Work at Grand Central

May 03, 2018
Credit: Claire Holt (left); Metro-North (right)

“The restoration of Grand Central Terminal was driven by the vision, leadership and passion of Peter Stangl, the first President of Metro-North Railroad, and realized through the creativity, professionalism and determination of architect John Belle and his team at Beyer Blinder Belle as well as the many dedicated employees of the Metro-North Railroad and the MTA.”

On April 20, leadership from Metro-North and Beyer Blinder Belle gathered in the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal for the unveiling of a special plaque commemorating the relationship between Metro-North’s first president, Peter Stangl, and John Belle, late Founding Partner of Beyer Blinder Belle.

In 1990 John Belle, as lead designer and Architect of Record, led a consortium to develop a revitalization master plan for Grand Central - New York’s most recognized and used city building - heralding the start of a nearly decade-long restoration and revitalization effort. The effect of the Terminal’s restoration has been considerable: Commuters benefit from major circulation and service improvements; tourists come to see the majesty of the Main Concourse and the restored sky ceiling; and all New Yorkers and visitors enjoy the restaurants and shops and the many special events held in the once underutilized Vanderbilt Hall.

I remember a conversation with John… how when we describe Grand Central we use words like ‘monumental’ and ‘permanent’ and ‘landmark.’ But John emphasized that the real reason the building is important and endures is not what it looks like but what goes on within. How this ‘permanent’ building encourages movement and celebrates the passage of time: ‘Anyone can match stone or replicate a light fixture,’ he said. ‘But how do we preserve, and protect, the spirit of a building?’ As John intended, Grand Central is not simply a landmark and not merely a museum. It is the greatest public space in New York City.
- Frank Prial, Jr., Associate Partner, Beyer Blinder Belle Architects

As with all successful restoration projects, visitors unfamiliar with the extraordinary effort will often see the completed project and ask well, what did you do? The answer is that John Belle fulfilled Peter Stangl’s stated mission to make Grand Central Terminal once again a great train station.
- Joseph Giulietti, Retired President, Metro-North

Had [John’s] only project been this, the one at Grand Central Terminal, he would leave an extraordinary legacy, but he had many others.
- Peter Stangl, Former (and First) President of Metro-North

Courtesy Metro-North

Peter Stangl with Frank Prial.

Courtesy Metro-North

Marilyn Marullo, BBB’s Chief Administrative Officer, with Wendy Beyer, wife of Partner John H. Beyer.