Andy's World's Fair Index

I love World's Fairs. I'm particularly fond of the New York World's Fair of 1964-65, which I attended as a baby. I have a collection of second-hand World's Fair souvenirs which fills up 5 boxes, but my favorite artifacts are the ruins left behind in Flushing Meadows, Queens. Every few years I like to visit the old fairgrounds, to inspect the remaining landmarks, like the Unisphere, the Rocket Thrower, the New York State Pavilion, the Time Capsules, the Hall of Science, the Court of the Universe, and others. This page features photos and commentary on these World's Fair ruins.

More recently, I've become obsessed with Expo '67.


Here are some links to other World's Fair-related pages at Wunderland.com:


The Unisphere

The symbol and center of the New York World's Fair is this 120 foot diameter globe, made of stainless steel. Like the fair as a whole, it stands in the same spot as did the theme center of the 1939 NYWF, which was the Trylon & Perisphere. (In 1989, I imagined a 3rd NYWF, taking place in the same spot, with a hybrid symbol, the Trylon & Unisphere, which would be created just by building a new Trylon next to the Unisphere. I even created a simulated guidebook for this imaginary World's Fair, as part of a live-roleplaying game I was helping write. I still have a few of those guidebooks around... perhaps I'll put them up on eBay.)

Here's a picture of me enjoying the New York World's Fair in 1965, with my big brother Howard. As you can see, the experience made a big impression on me...

The New York State Pavilion

The biggest structure besides the Unisphere is the remains of the New York State pavilion, with its Jetsons-style towers, which anyone who's seen the film Men In Black will recognize.

As of my most recent visit, it was no longer possible to wander around inside the open air arena of the NY State Pavilion, as I had in the late 1980s, when these photos were taken. The floor of the pavilion featured a huge terrazzo map of New York, with handy markers showing you where all the Texaco stations in New York are located. (Guess who was a sponsor?)

Sadly, the giant map on the floor is crumbling away. When I was there in 1986, you could still read "You Are Here" in an appropriately-positioned circle on the map (near the feet in the photo shown here, said feet belonging to my brother Jeff and my college girlfriend Amy). But on a later visit, the floor had been stabilized, by scraping out all the loose, gravely bits and filling in the gaps will plain concrete. Now, you aren't even allowed in there anymore, so I couldn't tell how much further the map had deteriorated. (There were signs on the gates saying "Danger: High Voltage" but I suspect that's just a scare tactic.)

When I visited the fairgrounds some years ago with Chris Welsh, access to the inside of the New York State Pavilion was still possible, so much so that Chris figured out a way of getting inside one of those big support columns, inside of which was a staircase leading to the top. Nothing I could say would stop Chris from climbing up there; instead, he persuaded me to tag along, which is how I got this photo. (What he really wanted was to find a way up into the flying saucer observation platforms, but this wasn't possible.)

Notice how you can see the Court of the Time Capsules behind the pavilion (to the right of Mr. Welsh).

The Time Capsules

One of the most popular exhibits at the 1939 New York World's Fair was the Time Capsule buried at the Westinghouse pavilion, which was intended to be "a record of Twentieth Century Civilization, to endure for 5000 years." For the 1964 fair, Westinghouse repeated the stunt, burying a second torpedo-shaped capsule in the ground next to the original one. The site is marked now by a granite marker in a quiet grove of trees just behind the New York State Pavilion. It's a spot I always love to linger in, trying to imagine the world of 5000 years from now.

The marker is sometimes the target of graffiti; I'm happy to report that it looked much cleaner during my most recent visit than in does in this photograph, of me and Number 12, which was taken in 1988. (My T-shirt says "I Have Seen The Future," which was the slogan of the General Motors Futurama, which was a wildly popular pavilion at both fairs.)

My fascination with the Time Capsules has been reflected in my writings on a couple of occasions. My story "The 5000 Year Legacy" was inspired by these Time Capsules; that story later inspired the nanofiction entry for Zane Reenak's Lost ID story. (My fascination with the New York World's Fair in general is highlighted in another story I wrote back then, called "The Timeless Curio Shop.") I've even been known to build Time Capsules myself...

The Hall of Science

This is one of the only pavilions that was actually intended to remain in the park as a permanent structure after the fair was over. It's now a popular hands-on science museum, which was been greatly expanded since I took this photo in the late 80s. The tip of the Atlas rocket seen in this picture is one of several pieces of rocket hardware that were donated to the fair by NASA and which are still on display in the Museum's Space Park.

The Great Hall may look drab on the outside, but the view inside is really grand. Those curving walls are laced with pieces of small blue glass, so that when you're inside, with the sunlight shining through, the walls are like massive stained-glass windows. Originally, there were spacecraft hanging from the ceiling in here.

Kristin's fondest memory of visiting Flushing Meadows was the time, I think it was in 1994, when we encountered a fascinating art installation that had been set up in the Great Hall, called Chirping and Silence. It's rather difficult to describe, but it was really cool. We'd love to know what the artist who created that is up to now...

The Court of the Universe

The zone in front of the Pool of Industry was called the Court of the Universe. The area was identified as such with a small stone marker. (There's a similar little marker near the statue of the Rocket Thrower which identifies that area as the Court of the Astronauts.) As you can see in this photo from 1988, the Court of the Universe was originally paved with a bunch of small hexagonal bricks (just like the ones that used to cover the plaza outside the Undergraduate Library, for you University of Maryland alumni).

Since my last visit, the hexagonal stones have all been removed and replaced with simple blacktop pavement. In the process, they damaged the Court of the Universe's marker pretty badly, but at least it's still there.

Other Relics of the Fairs

These are just a few of the statues and structures that linger in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. There are a bunch of other sculptures and markers and relics to discover while wandering around the park. There's a column from the Temple of Artemis on the site of the Jordan pavilion, and a little shrine commemorating the location of the Vatican pavilion, and of course, the Queen's Museum, which stands directly behind the Unisphere and is the only building from the 1939 fair that still remains. It was the New York City pavilion in 1964, and the huge scale model of the city, which was the pavilion's main offering, is still on display inside.

There's still a lot to see at the old fairgrounds, for anyone who wishes to take an imaginary journey to a pair of the world's greatest World's Fairs. Check it out someday if you're ever in the neighborhood.