Thursday, May 25, 2023

NYWF Construction Pix, March, 1964

You know I love the 1964 New York World's Fair (though I was really too young to see it in person). What a place! And I've been fortunate enough to get some scarce construction photos, in this case from March of 1964, mere weeks before the grand opening (which was on April 22nd)! 

We'll start with the look at the Austrian pavilion. The pavilion, fashioned from laminated Alpine spruce, is suspended 15 feet above the ground from three soaring A-shaped supports. Pretty cool, although I would have preferred birch. Spruce is the "poor man's birch", you would agree. To the right is the Solar Fountain: A central dome supports a 30-foot high column of water while a starburst circles around the dome. Wobbling jets of water surrounding the dome simulate the sun's gases. And the tall arched thingamabob behind that is art of the Johnson Wax pavilion, the arches supported a 500 seat theater in the shape of a large golden disk.

Here's a vintage postcard view.

Here's the Japan pavilion, looking very much like a large house. Maybe that's why it eventually said "House of Japan" on the outside. The pavilion buildings combine the graceful architecture of ancient Japan with contemporary designs. Rockets for space research, model trains and tea ceremonies, and an array of consumer products are part of a presentation which emphasizes the differences between the new Japan and the old. Side by side with some of the world's most advanced microscopes, cameras, automobiles and industrial machines are charming evidences of the quiet, cultured but totally nonindustrial Japan of only 100 years ago.

Here's one of my own slides so that you can see how it looked when completed.

Over on the shore of Meadow Lake was a replica of Christopher Columbus's ship, the Santa Maria. And while the ship itself had not yet been delivered, we can see part of what was known as the "Spanish Pier". From the guidebook: A full-sized replica of the flagship of Christopher Columbus' discovery fleet is moored at the end of a 15th Century-style floating Spanish wharf. Termed by the exhibitors "Space Ship - 1492," this Santa Maria is the product of a distinguished intercontinental collaboration that insured authenticity.

Here's a second view. I guess I should have tried to merge the two images, but I am too lazy, and kind of itchy too. I wish I had some ointment. Across the water, construction for the Amphitheater, which had been part of the Billy Rose Aquacade during the 1939/40 Fair. It was refurbished for 1964, a show called "Wonder World" was performed there. It was a tremendous flop.

The only halfway decent photo of the Santa Maria at the completed Fair that I could find is one from World's Fair scholar/expert Bill Cotter, who has thousands and thousands of incredible photos from that Fair, as well as others. You should check out his website if you are interested!

I had this next photo in my own collection, but it leaves a lot to be desired.

I hope you have enjoyed these rare construction views from the 1964 New York World's Fair.


JB said...

So strange to see the '64 Fair in its incomplete state. Like pulling back the curtain and seeing the Wizard, naked!, working the controls. It's fascinating to see how the sausage is made. That's why we like seeing Disneyland construction photos; we're curious creatures.

Columbus' Santa Maria is all fine and good, but I would like to see a re-creation of Leif Erikson's Viking longship that took him to Vinland (North America). If I recall correctly, Columbus never set foot on North America, being content to putter around the Bahamas. Besides, the Vikings were here about 500 years earlier. I think we should rename Columbus Day, Erikson Day. Of course, the First Americans beat them both by tens of thousands of years... but whose counting.

I like your Santa Maria photo, Major. Yeah, it's waaay far away. But the air is crisp and clear and the colors are saturated; nice picture.

Thanks, Major. Both, this Fair and the Seattle fair have always been fascinating to me.

Stu29573 said...

I have a pocket knife from the '64 Fair, and the Flintstones comic book, of course, and, I think, a plate or something- but I don't have much. Of course I was only two when it started- and I was in Texas- so I got nowhere near it. I DID go to the Hemisfair, though.
Nice pictures, though!

JG said...

These are sure unusual, Major.

I like the before and after or is it side by side?

Not every day we see Columbus’ space ship.

Spanish Pier… …there’s a joke in there somewhere but it’s too early for me to find it.


Anonymous said...

My Dad was a salesman whose territory was the New York, Northern New Jersey area and he knew every street, road and highway in the New York metropolitan area. Driving was second nature to him. One day he loaded me and my brothers into the family station wagon because he wanted to see the 64-65 World's Fair under construction. We drove around and checked out the fairgrounds being built. I was most amazed at the construction of neighboring Shea Stadium. To think that this was the future home of the New York Mets was fascinating to me! My grandfather was an iron worker who built the Trylon and Perisphere at the 1939 Worlds Fair, so my dad had a curiosity about the 64 Worlds Fair. Besides the 39 Fair, my grandfather built the Empire State Building, the U.N. Building, Verrazzanno-Narrows bridge, and many many other New York landmarks.
Dennis, Levittown, NY

Major Pepperidge said...

JB, I sometimes think about the people who lived near the Fair site, driving past every day as this giant project went from bulldozed dirt to the eventual magical place that we’ve seen in so many photos. It would be hard to imagine not wanting to go, though I’ve heard that attendance, while very good, was not as great as they’d hoped. “Eh, not interested!” said Tony from Queens! Hey, I’d be content to putter around the Bahamas too, I can’t blame Columbus. He probably had one of those drinks with the little paper umbrella in his hand at all times. I’m fascinated with most 20th Century World’s Fairs, but the 1933, 1939, 1962, and 1964 versions are especially great.

Stu29573, I don’t have a lot of collectibles from the 1964 Fair… mostly slides! But whenever I see an artifact from there, it somehow mentally takes me right there (even though I never went for real).

JG, I’ve been lucky to get a few great batches of construction photos from this Fair, including a very large bunch that I have not even gotten to yet. Many of the are dedicated to the design and making of the huge sign outside the DuPont “Wonderful World of Chemistry” pavilion, I kind of feel like it’s more photos than most Jr. Gorillas would be interested in seeing.

Dennis, that must have been an incredible experience! Very cool that your dad took you to see that, I think a lot of people would have not bothered with seeing the Fair under construction. And Shea Stadium, what an icon. Hard to believe that it is gone now.

Nanook said...

I 'love' all the HVAC equipment for the Japan pavilion. (Is that a 'little' Baltimore Aircoil cooling tower sitting next to that tan, packaged fan coil unit-? It appears those trees (and a privacy fence) disguised the mechanical equipment from fairgoers.

@ Dennis-
The stories your grandfather could tell...! That must've been a fun drive-!

Thanks, Major.


My mom and grandparents were originally from New York … and while they came to San Diego in 1960, they went to the fair twice. At some point when I was little I was given NYWF souvenirs from my uncles like small world records , guidebooks etc … so I growing up was confused about Lincoln … Small World … Carousel of Progress … DL RR dinosaurs and thought that there were “Disneylands” where everyone lived… our neighbors went to WDW and we got postcards from their … and what looked like another one of THOSE other “Disneylands”….. and my kindergarten teacher went to this place called Europe - she shared a slide show of the trip …. The castle …. They had a Matterhorn … yet ANOTHER “Disneyland”!!

Dean Finder said...

The Austria pavilion was reused as a ski lodge, but burned a few years ago. The Johnson's Wax theater was relocated to their headquarters in Racine, WI, where it shows the same movie today.

I had a small brown glass ashtray with the Rocket Thrower and Unisphere from the NYWF that I picked up at a garage sale as a kid, long before I knew what the NYWF was. It was ironic to have it when I got into the fair in the mid 2010s. Sadly, I dropped it on a tile floor showing t to my wife when I was going through boxes during covid lockdown. Ironic that it survived neglect for decades only to be destroyed like that.