For the past four editions the Queens Chronicle has been featuring a series of stories on the second year of the 1964-65 World’s Fair, following last year’s award-winning series, which can be read on qchron.com/worldfair64.This coming October, the fair will have been closed for 50 years. Here’s what our readers have to say about their fondest memories of the event at Flushing Meadows.
It’s been nearly 50 years since the World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows closed, but look around the fairgrounds as well as sites throughout the United States and you will find reminders, from a giant tire to life-size dinosaurs.
Before traveling around the country, you can see plenty of relics left from the 1964-65 fair at Flushing Meadows, including the Heliport, now Terrace on the Park, and the Singer Bowl, now the Louis Armstrong Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The stadium, however, is scheduled for demolition as part of upcoming expansion plans.
Oct. 17, 1965 was a busy day at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, with people rushing in to get one last look and perhaps one last souvenir from the fair that was closing for good after its two-year run.
The surge of visitors had been rising over that Columbus Day weekend when people realized it was their last chance to visit the fair, which ran for six months each of the two years.
Ask anyone who attended the 1964-65 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows and they will tell you their sweetest memory is of the Belgian waffles.
Although first introduced at the World’s Fair in Seattle two years earlier, it wasn’t until the Flushing Meadows extravaganza that the treat — called Bel-Gem waffles —really took off.
The year is 1965. There are race riots in the United States, the first troops are deployed in the Vietnam War and civil rights activist Malcolm X is shot dead in New York City. But in Queens it is the second and final year of the World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows that proved to be a glorious escape for young and old.
The fair, under the direction of Robert Moses, opened the previous April and ran for six months. Attendance wasn’t as high as expected and Moses hoped to recoup that loss in 1965 so that when the fair closed, permanent improvements could be made to the park.
This is the last in a series of 10 stories commemorating the 1964-65 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows. This time we let our readers tell their remembrances.
“I must have gone every week. We lived so close. My favorite was and still is ‘It’s a Small World.’ I used to sing the song all the time to tease my niece and nephew because I can’t carry a tune.” — Jeanette Foletar, Middle Village.
1964-65 World’s Fair left a lasting impression on all who attended. Chronicle readers submit their photos from 50 years ago
Jet packs, Corfam and disposable dishes versus color television, computers and the Mustang. Did prognosticators at the 1964 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows get it right?
The answer is inevitably, yes and no, but based on long-term success, many of the winners introduced at the World’s Fair exceeded expectations and are thriving 50 years later.
The 1964-65 World’s Fair left several clues of its existence but none more tantalizing than the Westinghouse time capsule and the enigmatic Underground World Home.
Filled with everyday items and not to be opened for 5,000 years, the time capsule was buried 50 feet below ground a day before the fair closed on Oct. 16, 1965. There is a granite marker in Flushing Meadows Park showing where both the 1939 and 1965 capsules were buried 50 and 76 years ago. It is located at the former site of the Westinghouse Pavilion, near the New York State Pavilion.
One of the most highly acclaimed structures of the 1964-65 World’s Fair — the New York State Pavilion — tragically has been allowed to badly deteriorate, but the 50th anniversary of the extravaganza has brought renewed hope that things are about to change.
With the active support of Borough President Melinda Katz, a task force has been created to come up with ideas on how to raise funds to stabilize the pavilion, estimated to cost around $40 million, followed by possible reuse plans for the facility.
One of the few buildings left from the 1964-65 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows almost never got built.
The New York Hall of Science — now a premier hands-on exhibit space — had a rocky start, with several planners wanting a permanent science museum to be built in Manhattan. If not for the efforts of Mayor Robert Wagner and World’s Fair Corp. President Robert Moses, it may well have been situated in that other borough.
One focus of the 1964-65 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows was art. Fairgoers could see paintings by Goya and Michelangelo’s famous “Pieta.” But a few of the artworks specifically designed for the fair were controversial, and some of them remain there today.
Five sculptors were commissioned to create works that would stay in the park after the fair ended. They were Theodore Roszak, Paul Manship, Marshall Fredericks, Jose de Rivera and Donald De Lue.
World’s Fairs have always been transitory things. Cities were lucky if they retained one or two icons. But at Flushing Meadows, not only are there some pavilions that still exist, but also a feature from the 1964-65 event that is almost as popular today as it was 50 years ago.
The Panorama of the City of New York remains inside the Queens Museum, which in 1939 and 1964 was the New York City Building. The exhibit was the brainchild of Robert Moses, president of both fairs, who saw the miniature city as a permanent exhibit to be used as a tool for urban planners after the event closed. Though that never happened to any great extent, its star power remains for school-age students as well as adults visiting the recently enlarged museum.
The Queens Museum, which started out as the New York City Pavilion during the 1939 World’s Fair, is the only remaining building left at Flushing Meadows from that time. It is also the major repository of souvenirs and memorabilia from the 1964 extravaganza.
If you like tchotches and souvenirs, this is the place for you. The museum now has on view 900 three-dimensional pieces arranged by date. There are sections for both the 1964 and 1939 fairs.
On the surface, there appear to be only a few relics left from the 1964-65 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows, but look a little deeper and there is quite a bit more — if you know where to search.
The 12-story-high Unisphere and neglected New York State Pavilion are the two most visible reminders of the fair, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. Part of that pavilion was the circular Theaterama, which several years ago was transformed as the Queens Theatre.
It was 1964, the height of the Cold War and Americans were still reeling from the loss of their young president a year earlier. The perfect antidote was a World’s Fair.
Although not a financial success, the two-year event at Flushing Meadows buoyed spirits in a time when that was much needed.