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What Remains of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair?

In my last post I shared some Then and Now photos from my visit to the site of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. In this post I share a few things from the World's Fair that still remain on the site today.

The site is now a New York City public park called Flushing Meadows Corona Park. 

The park located in Queens was once the site of the Corona Ash Dumps which were characterized as "a valley of ashes" in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. In the 1930s the dumps were cleaned up to make way for the 1939 New York World's Fair. Two World's Fairs on one site!

I was in Manhattan for the first time in a long time and decided to take the 7 train out to Flushing Meadows. The experience of arriving at the nearby train stop and seeing the iconic Unisphere is incredible. It's like arriving at Epcot and seeing Spaceship Earth. Once inside the park it's easy to spot the large sphere from almost anywhere.

The water pools from the fair still stand today. I imagine when it's not Winter they are actually full of water. Here we see the "Fountains of the Fairs".

I couldn't help but wonder if all the joggers, tennis players, and soccer players at the park knew the historical significance of the land they were enjoying.

These beautiful tile mosaics were exciting to discover. They have clearly seen better days. Turns out they aren't all that old. I believe they were added in the late 90s.

Take a close look at what I've circled here in front of General Electric's Progressland pavilion (home to Carousel of Progress). Drinking fountains and benches.

Some of them still stand today!

Several street markers still grace the curbing of the streets. Many of the World's Fair streets and their names remain unchanged.

"Court of the Universe" and the "Pool of Industry".

The most prominent structure from the fair that still remains is the New York State pavilion. It may look familiar if you've seen Men In Black or Iron Man 2. 

We see here how grand the pavilion looked during the fair.

Today it's closed to the public, rusted, full of weeds, and of course all of the colorful plexiglass tent panels are long-gone.

Apparently a bunch of cats have taken over. Distant cousins of the wild cats that live in Disneyland?

Just inside one of this gates I spotted this little sign. There's been much debate about what to do with the structure. 

The towers once offered World's Fair guests some amazing views of the fair grounds. Guest accessed the platforms via two "Skystreak" exterior elevators.

We learn the following from Queens Crap blog:

"After the fair ended in 1965, the steel-and-glass capsules were left at the mercy of decay and vandals - as one rusted away in a pit beneath the pavilion, and the other was stuck mid-rise at 150 feet. The city Parks Department stripped the pods off their cables in July 2008, fearing parts might blow off in strong winds. At the time, both were largely intact."

Sadly they are not "largely intact" anymore. I got a small glimpse between gaps in the fence at what remains of at least one of the elevators.

Across the path the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company buried a time capsule as part of their in exhibit it 1965. And get this. They buried a similar time capsule just ten feet away in 1938. Both were placed 50 feet into the ground.

A short walk away another piece of both fairs still stands. The building that is now the Queens Museum of Art was built to house the New York City Pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair. The building was home to the New York City Pavilion once again at the 1964-64 World's Fair.

I must thank @EPCOTExlorer for insisting I tour the Queens Museum of Art. I came upon a sign saying the museum was closed to the public that day and only open to school groups. I entered a side door to ask if I could use the restroom. The security guard said the main-level restrooms were closed due to some museum renovations. He was nice enough to point to an old-looking elevator and sent me to the upper-level restrooms. Inside this large elevator I was thrilled to find this model of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.

I took only a couple photos. I figured I'd quickly use the restroom and make my way out of the closed museum without overstaying my welcome.

But of course I couldn't help myself. After returning to the elevator I decided to photograph the entire model the best I could.

Cute little Sky Ride.

General Electric's Carousel of Progress there in the center and Pepsi-Cola's It's a Small World on the lower right.

Ford Pavilion and its Magic Skyway.

State of Illinois and Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln.

I then decided to photograph something else that had caught my eye off in the corner. A small collection of World's Fair memorabilia. I think I'll recreate that metal directional sign for my office. 

This wonderful concept art (framed on the right) shows part of General Motor's "Futurama" model of a futuristic city. Though none of this was built by Disney, it's often confused with what would later debut at Disneyland as the "Progress City" model. What's the dishwasher thing on the left? I don't know.

More info about the small museum exhibit.

On my way out I snuck into a large room to see something breathtaking. I had seen photos of this large panorama many times but didn't realize it belonged to the museum in which I was wandering. When I finally made it back to that side door I thanked the security guard and said, "I must pay admission because I enjoyed far too much of your museum." He said, "Not necessary but I can't let you leave without seeing the best part." He took me to a door that led to a much closer view of the New York City panorama. Could the model in the elevator be connected to this panorama?

Needless to say, the entire experience was somewhat sacred for this student of distant Disney history. I'm sure many little remnants of the World's Fair and Walt Disney's contribution to the fair remain at Flushing Meadows. Go find them!


Related posts:

THEN AND NOW: 1964-65 New York World's Fair
 '67 [Part 3]
Carousel of Progress Like You’ve Never Seen It


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Reader Comments (133)

I am just blown away by this post. I most recently moved to Queens and when the weather gets a bit warmer, I want to go explore this space for sure. Thank you so much for taking the time to really show how things were and how they were today, and what special little details you found inside that museum.

I'm reading that plaque... about boosting economy and building a new park and I can't help but wish that something like that happens soon. It would be such a nice way to boost morale and give jobs to many people in our area who have become unemployed and hit hard times.

I thoroughly thoroughly enjoyed this post. (I think I say this about everything you put up, but, today. Wow. I'm going to send this to my dad immediately. I just found out he went to the World's Fair when I found a collection of maps, etc. that he had saved. I think he'll get a kick out of this... and maybe feel a little sad too.)

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEstelle

Very interesting! A few comments.

Sadly, those fountains are not filled during warmer weather, and haven't been in many years. It seems that get used as swimming and wading pools the minute water is put in them, and there is too much liability. They sometimes run the fountains at the Unisphere, mostly during the US Open, but at a reduced capacity. People will them immediately climb into it...

The large elevator in the NYC Building was used to take crowds to the loading area for a simulated helicopter ride around the Panorama.

The "dishwasher" was actually a proposed dish maker. The idea was you would crank out the dishes needed for a meal in the machine, use them, then toss the dirty dishes back in where they would be ground up for pellets to make new dishes. I have no idea where the food remnants were supposed to go!

Thanks for the trip back in time.

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBill Cotter

Fantastic blog post.

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Ponzi

Thanks for sharing such a fantastic experience! That small model of the fairgrounds almost looks like it is painted to glow under black light. What a treat it would be if it did.

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterOmnispace

Wow. So much I didn't know. You are right about the somewhat sacred nature of a place like this.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFSGLOB

I collect 1964-65 WF Memoribilia. I love seeing pictures and artifacts from this far, I wish I had been alive to experience it in person. I've visited the fair grounds a few times, and even have little artifacts that I probably shouldn't own (I have a piece of the NYS Pavillion's floor mosaic...eep!) Visiting the museum was fantastic back when I went a few years ago. I'll have to go back again when they update the WF exibit!! I have never seen that model (the one you found in the elevator)... super jealous!

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSpecialbunny

They must have kept updating that giant map of NYC after the fair was over, since the Twin Towers weren't built until the 1970s.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDean Finder

Fantastic history there...great post and pics. As a native NYer the old worlds fair grounds were always a cool place to visit on a road trip, and they always held a feeling of long gone mystery and history. The "cute sky ride" in the model found in the elevator still lives and is six flags new England. It was bought from the worlds fair and still gives rides today!

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAiren

The Panorama is a remnant of the 64-65 World's Fair and is updated periodically. The last update was made in the 90s. The next major update, they'll add the new World Trade Center, but for now the Twin Towers remain as a sort of memorial. The museum regularly has artworks that incorporate the Panorama, and you can donate money to the conservation of it in exchange for the "deed" to an apartment, park, etc. on the museum's website.

The fountains around the Unisphere (which is also where the Perisphere and Trylon were during the 39-40 World's Fair) are on during the US Open every summer. I happened to be in the park one summer a couple of years ago while they were testing them, and it's really quite lovely.

Across the Grand Central Parkway is the rest of the park, including a few other WF remnants. The New York Hall of Science (and its rockets!) are left from the 64-65, and the aviary at the Queens Zoo is a Buckminster Fuller-designed geodesic dome.

It's a shame that the park is in the state it's in (and this includes the NY State Pavilion, although the Theater in the enclosed section of the structure is lovely), but it's still a hidden gem in the city. It's just become a bit... rough. Glad you got to visit!

February 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShaelyn

Top notch detective work! It's great to see some of that stuff survives. It would be great to see what remains there restored to a functional level. I mean, if NYC has enough money to launch a campaign about ear bud safety, surely it can find enough to get what remains there to be more than a blight on the area. Seems like Bloomberg would be able to do that with his own money, if he wanted.

Even if they can't make it functional again, at least they could try to make it look better than an advanced state of decay. Sadly, it reminds me of the what happens to some venues in the aftermath of other epic-level events of international goodwill - the Olympics.

I'm not against international goodwill or the Olympics, mind you, but they sure can leave a mess for the host that sometimes seems diametrically opposed to the ideals the event promoted. I just hate seeing what was once a symbol of optimism and progress toward a great future now stand as a stagnant, ugly reminder that the future doesn't always turn out as you thought it would - I mean, shouldn't we be able to park our flying cars around the outside of those tower decks by now?

March 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave

On one of the way displays, you'll notice some small figurines. I have the green dinosaur that's on display. It was sold at the Sinclair's Dinoland exhibit. I also have a Lincoln bust from the Illinois pavilion.

March 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterReesie

The mosaic was damaged during hurricane Sandy :(

And I love FSGLOB's comment, the place is very sacred to many.

April 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

My dad took me there when I was 15. I was so excited to see what my future would look like. One attraction I will never forget is seeing The Pieta. Don't know what building it was in but you were on this moving floor and how beautiful it was. Thank you for this blast from the past.

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Gilbreath

Just got through bike riding through the ground of the 64-65 World's Fair. I worked at the Land Of Lincoln pavillion as a guide/usher! It was a magical 2 years. When i entered the grounds it was like entering another world! I loved it! I'm still looking for the rolls of film I took back then. don't know if they can be developed even if I find them! Great memories!!!

April 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAhmasi R. Lloyd

I figured this was a good post to reply to; I wanted to update you guys on something I'd been working on and mentioned to you some years ago.

A few years ago, I had procured several video collections of the World's Fair in a nice little package. I've just recently been able to digitize the video, but I still need to do some editing. After that, I'm not sure what to do; I don't know exactly how I'll share this collection. I know it's hard to find any footage, so I'd love to make sure it gets out there.

May 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDerek

I have never been satisfied with the way world's fairs are managed after their closure. It's such a shame that these buildings don't find any function afterwards, as if the future as imagined in world's fairs was just a pointless dream. I find ironical that what has survived is some benches and not the pavilions!

May 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterchristophe

Don't forget that the Queens Museum of Art building also holds an important place in 20th Century history: the United Nations met in the building from 1946 to 1950, while the permanent headquarters on the East River was being constructed.

May 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWalter

What ever happened to the handprints in front of the Hollywood Pavilion by Lucille Ball and other famous celebrities? Are they in the museum?

May 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHstan11

I went to the Worlds Fair in 1964 & 1965---In 1964 I was a Boy Scout going to the Nat.Jamboree in Valley Forge,Penn. The Fair was eye opening for a young boy from Wisconsin--In 1965 I went with my parents and saw some of the things I missed--I will never forget it---It is sadd on how it has become

June 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Satory

Thank you for the memories! I loved the photo showing the original bench and water fountain by the Carousel of Progress. I believe that the tree in the "now" photo is the same as the little sapling in the 64 picture all grown up. The multiple colored lights you see on the fairway are now at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Middletown, NY. They still work!

June 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike DeMeo

Thanks for the memories! My parents took me to the fair in 1963. I was 7 years old and still have fond memories! My mother still has several souvenirs. For a small girl from Missouri it was awesome! Several years ago I had the opportunity to go to New York on a mission trip, when our plane landed I could see the unisphere.

June 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

Thank you for the memories.Very promising and happy time for NYC and America.
For a boy of seven at that time this was Disney World.

A piece of American history.

July 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJ. A

I went to the World's Fair at the age of 12. It was the most incredible experience that I remember both vividly and fondly. Thank you for this incredible update of that time and space nearly 50 years ago. I'm anxious to visit it again.

July 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Newman

Wonderful , a true labor of love ! I count myself fortunate that I can stop on way to my girlfriends house in Woodside and get out and walk or bike the Fair Grounds . At night when i drive home the Unisphere is lite and is truly beautiful . Queens being what it is does not get the attention nor preservation mindset that Central Park does in Manhattan . That is why Flushing Meadow Park is so unkept .

July 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Glover

I just found a 1965 photo of my family at the NY Worlds Fair. My little sister was in a Hertz "Corvette" child carriage with the Uniroyal Ferris wheel in the background. Wish I could post the photo. Great memories posted here.

August 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGerry

Thank you. My Dad and Mom took my brothers and I to that Worlds Fair when I was 10. These pictures jogged my memory of that. I live in Northern California now, but my wife and I travel to New York on occasion. Next time we will visit the old site and the museum.

August 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Jones

Thank you for all of your effort. As child, my mom took me to the fair. I remember the long walks and crowds. I especially remember the (small world) and the colorful pavilion and seats. Thanks for the pics . It brought back fond memories. Last Thursday I went for a walk to visit. I also took pics. It still looks ok. It is a shame how the New York pav. is wasting away. The unisphere had the fountains going ( yes, the US open). Thanks again!

August 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohnda

I was11 in the spring of '64 when I went to the fair. I remember the unisphere, Abe Lincoln, the "future" hall and the most vivid memory was walking down the street after getting off the train in Manhattan and hearing The Beatles singing "Do You Want To Know A Secret" come blaring out of a speaker at one of those little souvenir stores. Haaaa...and that's my biggest memory of the '64 World's Fair!!

September 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPip

stumbled upon this quite by accident - i just ♥! it!!! can't wait to show my 8 year old who is fascinated by science & history, & also, just obsessed w/ nyc - thx, what a nice presentation - i truly enjoyed ¡D

September 26, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlady s

I remember going often. We lived in Nassau county. I joined an American Indian tribe. They gave me an Indian name and horse, all written out on an authentic paper. I had to participate in a tribal dance. Wish I could remember the tribe I'm a "member" of.

October 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTrix M

Really enjoyed your pictures and memories of the 1964-1965 World's Fair. I was about 3 1/2 when I went with my mom, dad and sister, have some definite strong memories of the experience!

October 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLindaVA

I enjoyed your post immensely! I was there in 64 &65. I still regard it as the best summers of my life. The exhibits, the people, the atmosphere was tremendous. Even getting there from a hotel near Central Park to the World's Fair site on the subway was a great ride when I was ten years old. How I wish I could go back in time! It's a shame that more of the site was preserved. Thank you for bringing to light what was left!

October 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Thank you for this memory. As a 10 year old from Virginia in 1964, this was a magical, transformative place that I will never forget. I hope the site can be preserved and restored.

November 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike NC

To this day, the New York World's Fair is the most Impressive thing that I have ever seen. A wonderfully magical futuristic for the times. This was a time before theme parks and Disney World, so young boys and girls of the day had never seen anything remotely like it. I especially remember the Hall of the Presidents and the Carousel of Progress.

November 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBob PA

I worked at the Fair for both years, 1964/65, at the Ford Pavilion. The people I met and worked with, the opportunities it provided, and the magic of the fair itself changed my life forever. Thanks for generating some wonderful memories.

November 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRay Chatelin

Just surfing the web. Sooooooo interesting!!!!!! I was around 2 when the event took place , I can only looks so fun and innocent everyone enjoying. BASEBALL, HOTDOGS, APPLE PIE AND THE 64-65 NEW YORK FAIR.

November 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterj coppi

I was 17. My first solo trip from Canada. It's eerie to see the General Electric Pavilion site before/after picture. Kinda' emotional to remember the feeling of being there and then seeing the present scene. I have a picture of me walking in front of the large globe. It's on my 'to do list' today to look it up and compare it with your photos. Thanks for the 2013 photo trip.

December 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWayne

Great post. I was 13/14 when the fair was in NYC and I was living in Toms River, NJ. My parents actually let my brother (2 years older) and I go to NYC by ourselves. Bus from Lakewood to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and then the subway to the fair. We went a number of times by ourselves. I remember once when we went it was cold & rainy and there were very few people at the fair (i.e. no lines) and we were able to go through many of the exhibits more than once. One of the exhibits I remember was AT&T where they were showing off the touch tone phone. There was a test to show that using the touch tone pad was faster than dialing -- I was able to dial faster, since that's what I was used to using. :)

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKen

I worked at the fair for two years, at the Ford Pavilion. Your postings bring back many fond memories.

December 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRay

A couple years ago I brought home a box of junk from an auction house. Inside was a real cool model of a canon. It sat on my shelf for a couple years when one of my friends found out that the wooden stand to the canon opens. Inside was a receipt of purchase. It says. Zam zama. This model was purchased at the New York worlds fair 1964 by James a marler assistant director u.s. Army field artillery museum, fort sill, OK. For his personal collection. There is much more info on the receipt. Is there any value here? Thanks

December 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

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