Grand Central is filled with acorns and oak leaves

Even when you’re rush through Grand Central Terminal, it’s impossible not to glance up and notice its breathtaking treasures, like the beautiful light fixtures, clocks, and painted or tiled ceilings.


But there’s a decorative theme running through the station that’s a little more subtle and easy to miss: acorns and oak leaves.

AcornswaterfountainAn acorn tops the iconic brass clock above the information booth.

Marble garlands of oak leaves and acorns decorate the original 1913 water fountains. They’re also on the ceiling, chandeliers, and staircases.

So what’s with all the harvest images?

It’s a Vanderbilt thing. The Vanderbilt heirs financed the construction of the terminal, and the family crest is all about acorns and oaks leaves.


“From a little acorn a mighty oak shall grow,” was Grand Central builder Cornelius Vanderbilt’s motto, according to Christopher Winn’s I Never Knew That About New York.

AcornclockinterestingamericaI’m not sure if any of the Vanderbilt homes that lined Fifth Avenue in the Gilded Age also featured acorns and oaks. Those flourishes may not have gone with the decor in this chateau-style mansion, for example.

But Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Newport, Rhode Island summer “cottage,” the 70-room palazzo-inspired Breakers, is also decorated with acorns—a symbol of strength and long life.

[Third photo: via; fourth photo: via]

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5 Responses to “Grand Central is filled with acorns and oak leaves”

  1. trilby1895 Says:

    If it wasn’t for the efforts expended by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, this magnificent building would have been rubble thanks to the greed of clods who have already destroyed too much of our city’s irreplaceable heritage. There really should be a memorial dedicated to her memory somewhere in Grand Central Terminal.

  2. Rick Wagner Says:

    George Vanderbilt’s Billtmore House, the largest private home in America, also has many examples of oak leaves and acorns. I recall that there is a frieze in the tasting room of Biltmore Winery that is composed of oak leaves and acorns.

  3. The meaning behind Grand Central’s chandeliers | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] (never call it Station!) is a treasure of beautiful interiors. If you’ve ever noticed an acorn and leaf motif, that’s the Vanderbilt family […]

  4. The $20 million jewel in Grand Central Terminal | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] clock also features an acorn on top—a symbol representing the motto of the Vanderbilt family (they built Grand Central, of course): […]

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