Tuesday, April 22, 2014
50 years ago today, one of the greatest World's Fairs EVER opened in Flushing Meadows, New York. My interest in this Fair started when I learned about the various exhibits produced by Walt Disney and his Imagineers. But the '64 World's Fair offered so many amazing experiences; General Motors' "Futurama"; Bell System's "The Ride of Communication"; Michelangelo's "Pieta"; Eastman Kodak's giant photo prints (the largest in the world); Sinclair Oil's "Dinoland"; the giant steel Unisphere; to name but a few!
What a place, what an incredible confluence of design, architecture, theater, and technology. It's predecessor in 1939, which came along at the end of a crushing Depression and the beginning of a World War, the 1964 Fair opened when world was in turmoil; the Cold War and the assassination of President Kennedy were just two of the crises that made the world feel hopeless and frightening.
The Fair offered an optimistic view of the future that must have lifted visitor's spirits, even if they weren't completely conscious of it. For those of us who only get to experience the Fair through photos and ephemera all these years later, that optimism is still palpable, and (for some), powerful.
But enough of my blather! Let's look at some pictures, starting with this wonderful image taken from the observation deck of the Transportation and Travel pavilion (the one with the green moon dome). Just look at the multitude of visitors down below! Nearby is the Chrysler pavilion (in the much-more-colorful 1965 color scheme), with the skeletal Ford pavilion in the distance. The crowds give this photo lots of energy. Considering the cold-weather clothing everyone is wearing, this image may have been taken during the last days of the Fair (it closed in October of 1965).
Now we're down near the very same "rocket" seen in the first image, but we're in 1964 (note that it is mostly white, without the later oranges and pinks). The Hall of Science is still under construction in the background. I love the use of water to simulate the exhaust of the rocket! And how about that Delta tote bag that woman is carrying?
There is no shortage of photos of the U.S. Steel "Unisphere", but I never get tired of it. Weary visitors rest near the pool and fountains at the base of the globe; the people are half the fun of this picture! In the background is the Republic of China building, with the colorful Sky Ride strung like paper lanterns above it.
The Belgian Village was so much more than just waffles with whipped cream and strawberries - though I would have walked over there just for one of those. The village had crooked cobblestone streets, an arched stone bridge, a carousel, and shops full of souvenirs and handicrafts. It was the largest international exhibit at the Fair - over 4 acres.
Here's a lovely (postcard-worthy?) view of the Eastman Kodak building, with warm late-afternoon lighting imbuing everything with a golden touch. The curving organic shapes are futuristic and appealing in an abstract manner, and the trees and shrubs make everything feel more welcoming.
And finally, a photo from the Pepsi Cola pavilion, where you could meet your friends and family beneath the Tower of the Four Winds, or ride Walt Disney's "It's a Small World". Thanks to the Disney connection, guests who'd never made it to Anaheim had a chance to meet a variety of costumed Disney characters, just like at Disneyland. Alice and the White Rabbit pose with two young visitors… I love the girl's cat's-eye glasses, and the boy looks as happy as can be. Hey kid, take lots of photos! (Notice the Eastman pavilion in the background). If you look closely at the girls shoulder….
…you can see that she has one of these "Preferred Entry" passes from another Disney-produced show, General Electric's "Progressland". I am very jealous of her.
Wait, wait! Here is a last-minute addition to today's post… a beautiful photo of the Tower of the Four Winds. Rolly Crump's 120-foot tall kinetic sculpture has become one of the most beloved icons of the Fair; just look at it! The colorful, whimsical tower is not only charming and fun, but it is a wonderful example of mid-century design.
I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the New York World's Fair!