By Ivan Diamond
Hoping to whisper a sweet nothing or two into the ear of a special someone? How about within earshot of thousands of strangers?
Just outside the Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant in Grand Central Terminal, you’ll find an unmarked archway with quite the personality. The odd acoustics of this spot make it a must-visit freebie—and be sure to take a friend. You can stand at diagonal arches and carry on a quiet conversation, hearing each other perfectly.
Grand Central Terminal is one of the most recognizable transportation hubs in the world and a fantastic use of a historic building. It’s a defining landmark of New York City and a must-see for tourists and city-dwellers alike.
After a 1913 expansion, Grand Central Terminal was touted as the world’s biggest—and best —carrying some 100,000 passengers every day. Commissioned in 1869, the terminal at first only had a single train shed. But following the renovation, the site covered more than 280,000 meters and 67 tracks. Tucked within this living museum, you’ll find the Whispering Gallery near the Oyster Bar.
On any given day in Grand Central Terminal, the crowds are such that it would be easy to fall and have thousands of people keep on walking. But if you stop for a quiet moment in the right place, you may escape the constant din.
You won’t see any signs pointing you to the Whispering Gallery, but you’ll find it under the main concourse, at the intersection of two walkways. You also can recognize it by the dome formed by the vaulted roof with its herringbone tiles.
Choose a diagonal corner, and send your friend to the other. Then face the wall and start your “private conversation.” Yes, you’ll feel strange. But you also should hear every word your friend utters.
You may wonder: What sorcery causes this unnatural phenomenon? The truth is, it’s not especially uncommon. The design of the place, with its arch and the glazed tiles, allows it to transmit sound waves perfectly. What magic exists is in the ellipsoid design and can also be found in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica and other locations.
For those who are truly new to the city, you’ll find Grand Central Terminal at 101 42nd St. Head downstairs toward the dining concourse, and signs will direct you to the Oyster Bar. The Whispering Gallery is just outside the bar’s entrance. Be sure to grab a drink when you’re done sharing secrets.
Ivan Diamond is an injury and accident attorney who has been practicing in the Bronx for over 50 years. As a born and raised New Yorker, Ivan enjoys NYC history and spending time with his family.
Photo credit: Ivan Diamond