The majestic Beaux Arts building, which carries the official name of Grand Central Terminal, is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations.
As one of New York City's most recognizable landmarks, it has served as a backdrop for movies and TV shows ranging from "North by Northwest" to "The Cotton Club" and "Gossip Girl."
A previous plan to replace the building with an office tower sparked a campaign by the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and other preservationists to have it declared a landmark. The fight for Grand Central went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1978 that cities have the right to protect historic buildings even if it limits the owner's ability to develop or sell the property.
Onassis' daughter, Caroline Kennedy, spoke at Friday's centennial celebration in the terminal's main concourse. She said her mother was proud to be part of the effort.
"She understood how great public spaces create community," Kennedy said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also spoke, paying tribute to former Mayor Ed Koch, who died Friday. Other speakers included "Sex and the City" actress Cynthia Nixon and former poet laureate Billy Collins.
Former Mets star Keith Hernandez called the terminal "New York's other playing field."
The celebration started with the West Point Brass and Percussion Band performing the world premiere of "Grand Central Centennial Fanfare."
Tom Prendergast, the interim executive of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, called the terminal New York's version of a town square.
Grand Central was once a long-distance train terminal but now serves commuters going to and from New York's northern suburbs on the Metro-North Railroad. A New York City subway station also connects to the building, and the complex has dozens of shops and restaurants, including the venerable Oyster Bar.
Several of Grand Central's businesses were offering 1913 deals for Friday's birthday celebration, including a 75 cent cocktail at Michael Jordan's The Steak House NYC and a 19 cent slice of cheesecake at the Oyster Bar.
Friday's party takes place exactly 100 years after the keys to Grand Central were first given to the stationmaster on Feb. 1, 1913.
The celebration will continue with events throughout 2013, including a performance piece by artist Nick Cave on in March and a parade of historic trains in May.
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