Around Town

A Visit to the World’s Fair Pavilion

World's Fair Grounds

New York hosted two World’s Fair events in the last century and alas, I wasn’t born yet when either one took place. Not much has remained from either Fair but there are still bits of the 1964 World’s Fair that are still accessible to the public. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the Fair and after a multi-million dollar restoration, the old New York State Pavilion was finally opened to the public on very limited tours. I wasn’t able to attend then but fortunately, it was open recently for the annual Open House New York Weekend.

New York State Pavilion entrance

New York State Pavilion entrance

When I was younger, I often wondered about those strange looking structures in the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park as we drove through along the expressway. To be honest, I always thought they were rather an eyesore that marred the view of the park and it was a very long time before I learned what they actually were. And then it just seemed a pity that they were left standing derelict for decades, a reminder of days gone by. But the site’s been cleaned up and there are fresh coats of bright paints in similar colors as were there originally in the 1960s.

The Pavilion is made up of several structures but it was the “Tent of Tomorrow” that we were coming to see. It opened at 1pm and there were about 20 or so people ahead of me in line when I arrived around 12:45pm. It was a cool, bright day and chilly but at least the sun helped to keep us warm. As we waited, music and old advertisements from that era played loudly from inside the pavilion to remind us of that time. And at the front of the line, everyone was given a mesh cap to wear and over that, a hard hat. Once the safety gear was on, I walked inside to find these glorious views:

New York State Pavilion ceiling

New York State Pavilion interior

The ceiling was originally made up of many translucent colored tiles. Only the skeleton remains but I suppose one could imagine what it might have looked like (or take a look at the photos in this WNYC article instead).

New York State Pavilion relics

New York State Pavilion interior

New York State Pavilion interior

Even the floor was worth looking at. Originally, one would look down and see a highway map of New York State; most of the floor did not survive but there were two small portions on display for the weekend. Other items found during the restoration were placed in various spots inside the Pavilion as well as photos past and present of the site. There were several signs still hanging along the perimeter that indicated where a restaurant once was as well as access to a mezzanine. Unfortunately, heading upstairs is prohibited but we could see the remnants of old stairs and escalators just beyond a wire fence.

The Observation Towers and the Theaterama

The other two structures that are part of the Pavilion still remain to this day. The Theaterama is now home to the Queens Theater; I walked by as I was leaving and was tempted to stop in its cafe to grab lunch but didn’t. Next to and slightly behind the Theaterama are the Observation Towers; the Towers are still off-limits and haven’t been restored. It would be wonderful if they too were cleaned up and accessible but there doesn’t seem to be any plans for that. Maybe one day…