Saturday, May 04, 2024

New York World's Fair, August 1964

Say! It's been a while since we last visited the 1964 New York World's Fair. Let's go there today, shall we? 

First up is this image of guests walking past the American Express pavilion. What goes on there? At the entrance to this pavilion, a million dollars' worth of real currency from many nations "grows" on a money tree; inside, the official scale model of the World's Fair is on exhibit. The pavilion also offers various services including foreign exchange, check cashing, the sale of American Express travelers cheques and information on all aspects of the Fair. Meanwhile, there was a beautiful model of the entire Fair: The official model of the World's Fair measures over 54 by 21 feet. As exhibits are pointed out, the model's lighting goes from day to night to day again.

Dead ahead is the Astral Fountain. I learned from readers of this blog that the "cage" surrounding the fountain slowly turned, and I like to imagine that it sounded like a giant electric pencil sharpener. Why put a fountain in a cage? Who knows. Somehow a dome-shaped cage with constellations on it seems like it would have been a bit nicer, but I was only a baby and nobody asked me.

One of the giant Moon Berries grows atop one of the Brass Rail restaurants refreshment stands - there were 25 of them around the Fairgrounds! Moon Berries are delicious, but only when you eat them between midnight and 1:00 AM.

Apparently there used to be a beverage called "Coca Cola", but nobody remembers it today. Now we all drink Slurm (or Diet Slurm), and the world is better for it. I've shared info about the Coca Cola pavilion before, but that was a long time ago, so here it is again: The visitor to this exhibit samples five of the most spectacular places in the world, from an Alpine peak to a tropical forest - complete with sights, sounds, climate and aromas. The scenes are created in an elliptical building two-stories high enclosing a large court. In the center of the court is The Coca-Cola Tower, a three-sided 120-foot spire containing the world's largest electronic carillon, with 610 bells. It strikes the hours at the Fair and is played in concerts by famous carillonneurs.

Oh  boy, it's the Festival of Gas! I've never seen anything so beautiful. Never mind the smell. A puppet movie, a magic show, cooking demonstrations and product displays have been assembled by the gas industry in a pavilion of light, airy architecture in a pleasant garden. A white roof, raised high on two columns, shelters most of the area. Underneath, an arrangement of trees, shrubs, ponds and paths leads the flow of visitors to the exhibits and a restaurant.

Today's your lucky day, because you get another view of the Festival of Gas. A giant carousel, 12 feet off the ground, slowly revolves within the exhibit area and permits riders to view the displays they are about to visit. A complete turn takes about five minutes.

Oh yes, I have more photos from the World's Fair for you, coming soon.


Nanook said...

Yes, that carillon - built by Schulmerich Carillons, originally containing 610 bells; then augmented with 122 bells, for a total of 732, when the carillon was moved to Stone Mountain Memorial Park in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Thanks, Major.

JB said...

"Say! It's been a while since we last visited the 1964 New York World's Fair. Let's go there today, shall we?"
Geez, this fair has been going on for decades! Since 1964! We here at GDB have been going there for years! It's amazing how they can keep it going strong all this time! And without changing anything (for the worse... = TRE). The '64 NY World's Fair must be doing it right! Take note, Disney.

1) I guess that's the "money tree" out front. With the world's currency 'growing' on its branches. It doesn't look like you can get a closer view of it anywhere; which is a shame, and sort of a waste of an idea.

2) The fountain is in a rotating cage because THIS IS THE WORLD'S FAIR! And people expect to be wowed and amazed. (Well, that explanation works for me.)

3) Besides having to eat the Moon Berries at their peak time (midnight to 1:00 AM), you have to eat them on the Moon. I'm sure these Berries here are hothouse grown and just don't have that delicious Moon-grown flavor. But... better than nothing!

4) I don't know if those "Alpine peaks" and "tropical forests", etc. lived up to the hype... "aromas"? What sorts of aromas are associated with an Alpine peak? Pine? There wouldn't be any pine trees high up on the peak. Meanwhile, I would like to here a famous carillonneur play something on that carillon; a little Mozart maybe.

5 & 6) I bet they serve wieners and sauerkraut at that restaurant, because, you know... it's the Festival of Gas pavilion. Hey, the gas has to come from somewhere!

It's always fun to visit the Fair. Let's hope it keeps running for many more decades. Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

When a good breeze would come along, did the money tree lose some of it's "leaves"?

I hope the American Express pavilion had a Disney animatronic of Karl Malden, explaining the benefits of American Express travelers checks to an animatronic Hayley Mills and telling her, "Don't leave home without them!"

Bu said...

The rotating cage I first read as "rotting"...thinking ...well: didn't this entire ball of wax rot eventually? It's still all "kind of there" kind of rotting away.... I am always looking out the plane window when we fly over Flushing to see the architecture of the space: which is still very much intact and visible from the air: you fly down very close as you curve around into LGA on one approach. I thought the Festival of Gas was a Pepperidge thing....then saw the photo:'s real...a real festival of gas. In some cultures it's called a "Dutch Oven"...but I won't get gross on you. All of the architecture is truly amazing: I am sad I never got to see this in person: as a kid I would have been mesmerized. As an adult: I am still mesmerized. I'm not sure if this could ever happen today, but I would like it to anyways: all at the great companies of the world spending loads of cash on the most amazing pavilions...all the great creative minds....and all to be torn down. When we gated the Queen Mary (prior to Disney it was a free-for-all) we built supporting buildings (ticket boots, etc.) to last about 5 years: thinking at "Disney Seas" was impending. Talk about value engineering.... This was my first foray into commercial construction as a "loaned out" Tour Guide. In 6 months the deterioration began...we put some $$ into really creative and lovely landscaping: what was that guys name?: he was kind brilliant and was one of the Wrather's amazing how landscaping can immediately give value to "not so great" structures. I wish I had photos of all this stuff! Back to NYC: those moon berries give a "cloudberry" vibe. Cloudberries are a very very very special wild berry: only grown close to or above the arctic circle: and only grows wild. There are many restrictions to picking Cloudberries: they must be consumed as you pick if you are an one area anyway. A cloudberry picking is on my bucket list. I eat them once a year on May 17th: which is basically Norwegian "independence day". Cloudberries, like these moon berries, have a unique taste, and they grow just like the cutest berry you've ever seen in your life. Look it up, and you will see where this NYWF architect got his inspiration from. Thanks Major for the inspiring morning!

JG said...

One of my biggest regrets will now be never having been able to visit the Festival of Gas. I could have been a contender.

Hearing the various features of this Fair makes me wonder if there was any central theme or program for exhibitors? It all seems so random and weird.

Amazing stuff, Major, thank you!


Also, happy Star Wars Day to those who celebrate!

dennis said...

Nice pictures Major! I was afraid you forgot the Fair! 2 weeks ago was the 60th anniversary of the Fair's opening. Our local newspaper, Newsday, had extensive articles about the Fair, and the work underway to restore the New York State Pavilion. Plans include restoring the towers and elevators so people can go back up there. Its also getting a new coat of paint. I think I've mentioned it before, that the name of the paint color is - American Cheese Yellow! Looking forward to more pictures.
Dennis, Levittown,NY

Chuck said...


The fountain was locked up to prevent pilferage. Despite these precautions, the Fair still lost money.

Bu, the only time I have ever seen Flushing Meadows was through the window of a plane taking off from La Guardia. I had totally forgotten how close the Fair site was to the airfield and was not ready when I suddenly saw the Unisphere whiz past. Still, it was such an unexpected thrill to finally see a remnant of the Fair in its original habitat I was in a great mood for days.

JG, the Fair’s theme was “Peace Through Understanding,” which also happens to be the motto on Dwight Eisenhower’s personal coat of arms. From there it’s just a short hop, skip, and a jump to the Festival of Gas.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, that’s a nice little carillon, but it is smaller than mine, which has ten thousand bells. Nobody can beat my carillon!!

JB, I only WISH that fair continued for decades, then maybe I could have seen it. The “money tree” isn’t very impressive, you’d think they would have made something that really made visitors gasp. MONEY! The fountain in a cage is so odd, they literally took something beautiful and put it in a metal cage. WHY? I’m sure somebody had a kooky explanation. Moonberries, I like it when they are made into jam. Put it on buttered toast! Alpine peaks smell like edelweiss, of course. I think there were pine trees when I went to the Alps, but it’s not like I remember them vividly. Wieners and sauerkraut, that’s OK with me! Hopefully with little boiled potatoes too. Glad you liked these!

TokyoMagic!, see, your idea is brilliant. People would stand there for hours hoping for a breeze! If an animatronic Karl Malden fought animatronic Abe Lincoln, who would win?

Bu, well, some of the structures are still there, I get a little thrill heading into the city from JFK and seeing the New York State towers and the Port Authority building. I’ve never walked around the grounds, sadly. I don’t remember flying over the old Fairgrounds, maybe I wasn’t looking in the right direction, because I would love an aerial view. From what I hear, anyone who visited the Fair as a child still remembers it vividly, it was a transformative experience. And I can see why! I wonder if “Disney Seas” would have been a success had it been built? It’s weird to think of a Disney park NOT in Anaheim. And that was when they were doing things on the cheap. I’m not sure who the Wrather person is that you are referring to. Cloudberries only WISH they were like Moonberries! Once you’ve had a Moonberry, all other berries are CRAP. I went for a hike a while ago and saw some beautiful WHITE berries, apparently called Snowberries. Apparently they are toxic to humans, sadly, because I wanted to taste one. Thank goodness for the internet. I never knew that Norway ha an Independence Day. I thought they were always independent!

JG, today I like to tell people that I’m visiting the Festival of Gas, but for a while different reason I assume that Robert Moses oversaw the general look of the Fair, but maybe not? I kind of find the differences in architecture to be fascinating and fun. Star Wars Day, I always forget!

dennis, I think I DID kind of forget the Fair a little, but mostly I needed to scan a new batch of slides. I still have a few hundred, including some construction and (post Fair) destruction views. American Cheese Yellow, sounds like one of Nanook’s car color names!

Chuck, I’ll bet some greasy-haired hoodlums tried to steal the fountain, and the cage was added later! I know what you mean about seeing the Unisphere, especially when you don’t expect it. I’m so glad that they left it standing! I tried to tell Robert Moses that the theme of the Fair should have been “Bikini Babes”, but he wouldn’t listen.

Anonymous said...

Chuck, I am sure that the Germans had a full and clear Understanding of Eisenhower's commitment to Peace after 1945.

Major, I just meant the overall program content seemed so random. Like you, I approve of the exhibitionist architecture, very appropriate. Now that I think of it, I can't recall a single one of these buildings, even those designed by marquee name firms that figured in any of my design textbooks on 20th century architecture. which seems strange that the design press would overlook such an opportunity to promote Peace Through Understanding.

Dennis, this news of the proposed restoration is very welcome. I would love an opportunity to see these buildings some day up close, instead of from the bus or plane window.


DBenson said...

A European street built for the fair was still standing afterwards and used for a few scenes in "The Daydreamer", if I recall the commentary correctly. That movie, released in 1966, was produced by Rankin-Bass and mixed a live action story of young Hans Christian Anderson laced with fairy tales in stop-motion animation. Not as entertaining as "Mad Monster Party", and the hero is written as kind of a jerk. Still, one of those festive relics 60s kids would watch during holiday gatherings while the adults hung out in the living room. Just thought I'd bring it up.

Anonymous said...

One theme certainly seems to be spinning buildings! Who knew Carrousel of Progress was but one? It’s hard to imagine that fountain cage rotated, something definitely not value engineered. Another carousel at Festival of Gas(lighting)? There is a ferris wheel in a giant Tire ride somewhere there too.

I have seen other impressive photos of the money tree, no slight to you Major.

Finally one day a few years ago, I just had to have a driver stop on the way to JFK and see it all for myself. Absolutely NO vibe left. On the other hand, there is a film about fixing up the Plexi-tent from the state of NY pavilion (not seen here today) striving to keep a festival spirit, and some impressive terrazzo, going in recent years.

Always, it felt like the designers of the era were getting good moonberries at the right time, or something seriously fun to build such fabulously funky edifices.


PS, once again Walt was SO smart…’you pay me to design it…you pay to build it, and then I own and keep it.’ It was a odd and unique “World’s Fare” all about commerce, that lost money for everyone but Disney.

PPS, try to see the promo film “What A Way To Go…to the World’s Fair”, from the hilarious Shirley McClain movie.

Anonymous said...

Dean Finder said...

From what I read, the Festival of Gas was intended tonhave no walls, just curtains of air blown at the edges to keep heat or cool in and bugs out. That didn't make it past the design phase.

There's a retrospective coming up in July at the Queens Theater at th NY Pavilion if anyone is interested

Major Pepperidge said...

DBenson, I remember “The Daydreamer”, I even have one of the songs still in my brain (“Does Anybody Have Some Luck to Sell?” or something like that). Pretty cool that they had that European street just sitting there, ready to use. I admit though, “Mad Monster Party” is the best!

MS, I wish I lived in a spinning building, only I want it to spin like a front-loading clothes dryer. I’m not crazy! I was amazed when I think TokyoMagic! said that the cage rotated, and then I saw video proof. I think there were perhaps four carousels at the Fair (not even counting the Carousel of Progress), I have a photo from this very lot of slides that shows a small carousel that I can find NO info about. The Junior Gorillas will probably tell me a thing or two! I’m not surprised that the former Fairgrounds are not much to see, but I guess I would hope that some mysterious juju would still emanate from the earth. Did you know that the Moonberries were inflatable? And yes, Walt had an amazing plan for the Fair, we are still benefiting from it all these years later.

Dean Finder, whoa, the “air walls” sounds pretty crazy, I’m not surprised that it could not be made a reality. Thank you for the link to the retrospective, I wish I could go! I went to a NYWF event months ago with Bob Gurr and others in attendance, it was a very good presentation.