The 1964-65 World’s Fair has gone down in history as a mid-20th century showcase of culture and technology, but it didn’t just bring modern marvels to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. Ancient wonders from around the world were also presented at the fair, the most impressive foreign artifact being a 30-foot-tall Roman column dating back to the year 120 AD. Today, the column stands at the former site of the fairgrounds in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and is the second oldest man-made object publicly displayed in New York City’s parks, following Cleopatra’s needle in Central Park, which is about 3500 years old.
The Corinthian topped pillar, known as The Column of Jerash, was presented to the New York World’s Fair Corporation and the City of New York by King Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It was originally erected by Romans in the Jordanian city of Jersash, or Gerasa, as it was known then. A plaque on the column and World’s Fair brochures cite the Temple of Artemis as the place from where the pillar originated from, but archeological research from 2015 suggests otherwise. Based on the size of the column and photographs of the temple’s column placements, it was concluded that the pillar was not actually part of the temple. Although the column’s original placement is still undetermined, its historical significance remains untarnished since it was common practice to reuse columns for reconstruction in Jerash.
The theme of the 1964 fair was “Man in a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe,” inspired by the excitement and rapid technological developments of the Space Age that was unfolding at the time. Most of the 140 exhibits at the fair, the majority of which were American owned, focused on looking towards the future while the Jordanian exhibit, one of only 36 foreign sponsored exhibits, focused on revering the past. The exhibit was described as a “multi-peaked-and domed structure with an undulating roof, and surfaced in gold mosaic and shimmering blue glass.” Inside there were religious and historical artifacts, including the Dome of the Rock, statues of the Three Kings and a Dead Sea Scroll displayed in a replica of a cave.
The marble Column of Jerash is located east of the Unisphere and is one of the stops on our newly launched Remnants of the World’s Fairs at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Tour! Make sure to join us for a future event:
Next, check out Vintage Photos: Remnants of the 1964 New York World’s Fair and read about The Lost 1964 World’s Fair Subway Line and Cars.