When a World’s Fair comes to town, it leaves a lasting mark. New York City has hosted multiple World’s Fairs, from America’s first in 1853 to the World’s Fairs of 1839-40 and 1964-65 at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. While the Crystal Palace and Latting Observatory from the first fair at the site of Bryant Park are long gone, many relics of the Queens fairs remain. Here, we take a look at some of the remnants of the 1964 World’s Fair that you can still see today!
1. The Tent of Tomorrow
“Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe” was the theme of the 1964 World’s Fair and the New York State Pavilion embodied that theme in the modern design of its buildings. One of those buildings that still stands today is The Tent of Tomorrow, designed by noted architect Philip Johnson. The circular structure once boasted the world’s largest cable suspension roof (50,000 square feet) which supported a dazzling display of multi-colored fiberglass tiles. On the floor, there was a massive 567-panel terrazzo road map of the state of New York.
Most buildings constructed for World’s Fairs are demolished once the fair closes. Constructed according to lenient building codes, the buildings weren’t intended for future use. Demolition was often the most economical option. When the 1964 World’s Fair closed, the fate of the New York State Pavilion was in limbo. Robert Moses and other New York City officials wanted to see the Pavilion stay as a permanent feature of the park. In letters and other primary documents from 1963 to 1968 discovered in the Rockefeller Archive Center by People for the Pavilion, you can see the debate unfold. Eventually, ownership of the Pavilion was transferred to the City of New York, and the Tent of Tomorrow was preserved.
Remnants of the World’s Fairs Tour
When the fair ended, the Tent of Tomorrow was converted into an outdoor concert venue and briefly served as a roller skating rink before closing in 1974. For decades after, the Pavilion sat abandoned and deteriorating. The roof is completely gone and there are just a few small pieces left of the terrazzo map. Today, the structure is currently the subject of a $24 million restoration project that began in 2019 and is set to finish later in 2023. The scope of the project includes extensive preservation work in addition to the cosmetic enhancement of dynamic architectural lighting. This project is the first major effort to restore the site since it was abandoned.