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Ruins of the ’64 New York World’s Fair

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The empty observation towers of the New York Pavilion hover over Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

In Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the oddball ruins of the “Tent of Tomorrow” are fading into yesterday.  This land had been home to the Corona Ash Dumps—immortalized as the “valley of ashes” in the Great Gatsby—until master builder Robert Moses set out to transform the area by selecting it as the site of the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  While the overall design of the park was laid out for the ’39 event, its most evident landmarks date back to the ’64 exhibition.  The Space Age design of the New York Pavilion was intended to inspire visitors with the promise of the future, but today it serves to firmly plant the structure in the context of the 1960s.

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The New York State Pavilion in its youth.

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The tallest tower was the highest point in the fair at 226 feet.

Concieved by New York businessmen and funded by private financing, the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair was once again headed by Robert Moses, who saw the project as an opportunity to complete his vision for Flushing Meadows Park.  In order to make the fair financially feasible, organizers charged rent to exhibitors and ran the attraction for two years, ignoring the regulations of the worldwide authority on world’s fairs (the Bureau of International Expositions.)  As a result, the BIE refused to sanction the fair and instructed its forty member nations not to participate, which included Canada, most European Nations, Australia, and the Soviet Union.

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Faint remnants of bright yellow paint can still be spotted on the metal components of the structure.

The fair was dedicated to “Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe,” but the majority of exhibitors were American companies.  Some of the most popular destinations included General Motors’ “Futurama” exhibit, Disney’s original “It’s A Small World” attraction, and a model panorama of New York City (which you can still visit at the Queens Museum of Art).  Although over 51 million people attended the fair, the turnout was far less than expected.  The project ended in financial failure, returning only 20 cents on the dollar to bond investors. 

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The observation decks were re-imagined as space ships in the original Men In Black film.

Most of the World’s Fair pavilions were temporary constructions that were demolished within six months of closing, but a few were deemed worthy of becoming permanent fixtures of the park.  Once the centerpiece of the fair, the 12-story high stainless steel Unisphere has gone on to become a widely recognized symbol of Queens. Designed by notable modernist architect Philip Johnson, the nearby observation towers and the “Tent of Tomorrow” remain striking examples of the Space Age architecture the fair embraced.  Unfortunately, they’ve sat empty for decades, and are starting to show their age.  In the Tent of Tomorrow, space that once hosted live concerts and exciting demonstrations are occupied by stray cats and unsettling numbers of raccoons.

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The Tent of Tomorrow once held the record as the largest cable suspension roof in the world.

The pavilion was reopened as the “Roller Round Skating Rink” in 1970, but roof tiles soon became unstable and the city ordered the attraction to close by 1974.  Owing to their singular design, the structures have found their way into the background of many feature films, television shows, and music videos, including a memorable turn as a location and plot element for the original Men in Black.  You can still make out the design of the pavilion’s main floor—modeled after a New York state highway map—in this late ’80s They Might Be Giants video.

The New York State Pavilion was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, and a group of preservationists have helped clean up the exterior, restoring a bit of the original color scheme.  As we near the 50th anniversary of the ’64 World’s Fair, here’s hoping something can be done to put these unique structures back to use.

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A group of preservationists have restored the original paint job on the structure’s exterior.

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Vines, and a not entirely incongruous robot head, have been affixed to this tower.

 


 

 


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Disappearing into fog, from the Brooklyn side... Any Bay Ridgeites remember what used to be on these signs?

#verrazanobridge #verrazano #bayridge #brookyn #nyc #newyork #newyork_ig #newyorkcity #fog #foggy #moodygrams #water #longexposure #weather #nycprimeshot #bridgestagram Borough residents speak longingly of Staten Island before the opening of the Verrazano Bridge in 1964.
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Country roads meandered through sweeping forests, quiet beach communities, and open expanses of farmland crawling with nanny goats.
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The nature of the island was permanently altered as the bridge prompted a mass migration of newcomers from overpopulated Brooklyn.
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The influx covered farms and forests with mile upon mile of tract housing, plaguing the island with traffic problems that persist to this day.
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#newyork_ig #nycprimeshot #newyorknewyork #nyhistory #nyc #statenisland #bridgeporn #verrazanobridge #newyork #topnewyorkphoto #fiveboroughs #bridgestagram #underthebridge The city of New York took over the Staten Island Ferry in 1905 after a series of deadly disasters on privately-run lines. 🌊💀🔥 The 1871 "Westfield" disaster was the worst of them.  Nearly 100 passengers lost their lives when a boat's boiler exploded in its slip at Whitehall.  Jacob Vanderbilt, head of SI Railway at the time, was charged with murder, but never convicted.

More history up on the blog (🔗 in profile)

#newyorkcity #newyorknewyork #nyhistory #nychistory #statenisland #statenislandferry #nyharbor #staten #historynerd #nycprimeshot #newyork_ig #newyorkers Seagulls follow in the wake of the Staten Island Ferry. ⚓️ #statenisland #statenislandferry #nyc #newyorknewyork #topnewyorkphoto #nycprimeshot #newyorkcity @newyork_instagram The iconic orange color of the Staten Island Ferry was first adopted in 1926, to increase its visibility during periods of heavy snow and fog. 🌫🚢🌫 More photos and history on the blog... (🔗 in profile)

#staten #statenisland #newyorknewyork #newyorkcity #silive #city #statenislandferry #ferry #orange Got my first post up in a long while on the blog, introducing a new series on Staten Island. 🗽🛳 🏙 Here, the Staten Island Ferry pulls away from Lower Manhattan on a foggy afternoon. 🔗 in profile
#statenisland #statenislandferry #nyc #fog #silive #newyorkcity #newyorknewyork #staten #mist Well hello there! Outside looking in on the ruins of Kings Park Psychiatric Center. #abandoned #abandonedplaces #asylum #urbandecay #urbanexploration #urbex #kppc #kingspark #raccoonsofinstagram #raccoon #wildlife A sad old house in Graniteville, SI. #abandoned #abandonednyc #urbex #urbandecay #oldhouse #oldhousecharm #urbanexploration #nyc The wreck of the Phillip T. Feeney. #shipwreck #boatgraveyard #urbandecay #urbanexploration #urbex #nyc #statenisland #northshore Fort Wadsworth's Battery Weed is among the most picturesque of the city's defunct military defenses.  It stood guard from the 1860s to the 1990s, when the base was decommissioned.  #urbanexploration #urbandecay #statenisland #preservation #nyhistory #nyc #nycprimeshot #architecture Leaf litter floods the entryway to one of the oldest structures in New York City--first built as a one room residence way back in 1670!  It's in sorry shape today, though it was declared a NYC landmark in 1984.  #abandoned #abandonedplaces #abandonedhouse #landmarks #nyclandmarks #preservation #urbanexploration #statenisland The incredible Brooklyn Army Terminal atrium, photographed last February.  Though the atrium is no longer used for shipping and receiving, the surrounding structure remains a vibrant hub of industry on the Sunset Park waterfront.  #NYC #brooklyn #urbanexploration #urbandecay #nychistory #sunsetpark #industry #urbex
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