A Visit To The 1964/1965 World’s Fair

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Features, The 626

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626

Published on June 23, 2012 at 11:25 pm with 22 Comments

For those of us who know our Disney history, we know the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair was a huge turning point for the company. Disney developed, designed, and produced four of the most popular attractions at the Fair, three of which continue to operate in Disney Theme Parks today. These attractions allowed WED develop and practically perfect the audio-animatronics that are now common place in many of our favorite rides.


Of course, being the Disney Nerd that I am, I wanted to check out the site where the Fair once stood, so I recently took a geek pilgrimage out to Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. Though not much of the fair remains there today, a few remnants of that by gone era can still be found all over the park.


Of course, the most iconic structure of the Fair, the Unisphere, still stands. It still looks like it’s in wonderful condition, and is certainly a site to behold. I got the same feeling of anticipation seeing it that I do when I first catch a glimpse of SpaceShip Earth at EPCOT.


Being as how it was still an “off season” month when I went, the fountain around the Unisphere was turned off, and thus devoid of water. I obviously took this opportunity to get a close up look of it.


Seeing how the globe is supported by its under structure gave me a whole new appreciation for it.


Plus, being up to see it from the inside up was a pretty interesting sight too!

 

The Queens Museum of Art, located right next to the Unisphere, was originally built as the New York City Pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair.


Inside, they had a small exhibit of both World’s Fairs that took place on site. There was this great photo of Walt and Robert Moses, who was the head of the World’s Fair Corporation, which was charged with getting the 1964/65 Fair built.


Also inside the Museum was the famous panorama of the city of New York, which was built for the 1964 World’s Fair.


This thing was MASSIVE. The sheer scale of it blew me away, and I really couldn’t believe how incredibly detailed it was.


It have had miniature airplanes landing and taking off on its airport!



Wandering the grounds, I came across quite a few remnants of the 1964/65 World’s Fair scattered around the park, including various sculptures and gifts given to the City from foreign countries to display at the fair.

 

This is the Column of Jerash, given as a gift to the Fair by King Hussein of Jordan.

 

I also found a fire hydrant that was installed for the 1964/65 World’s Fair, which I thought was pretty neat. I’m sure 99% of the people walking by couldn’t care less about it, but to me, it was a cool little remnant of the past!

 

Wandering some more, I stumbled upon this cache of bottle tops. Is this the reason why it’s called Corona Park today? 


The former site of Progressland, the attraction that Disney produced for General Electric, now sits barren. There is literally nothing left, as is the case for most the Fair’s pavilions. Only a big empty field remains, with nature returning to its dominant state, showing that “Progress” doesn’t always stick around.


However, there was a set of bathrooms on the former Progressland site, and that obviously appealed to my Communicore Weekly senses (Bathroom Break, anyone?)!


The New York Pavilion built for the 1964/65 World’s Fair still stands, but is in terrible shape.


The building itself is closed off to the public, and the once majestic map that adorned its floor is missing.



Though the beautiful glass ceilings are long gone, the Pavilion is still a spectacular sight to behold.



Peaking inside through the fence, you can almost get a feel for what a magnificent place it was back in its hey day.



The lone resident of the pavilion is a cat! Someone must be feeding him, though, because I saw a full plate of food and water near him.

The observation towers next door are in terrible shape as well, and are closed off to the public.



Peaking in some of the side windows on them, you could still see the stairwell that brave souls used to climb to the top, but they were in serious disarray.


It would take a lot of money to restore them to their former glory, but I hope someone comes along one day to do so, because I’m sure the view from up top is still breath-taking!


By far the geekiest moment I had was standing on the former location of It’s A Small World.


Again, nature has been staking its claim and taking over, but to be standing in the same spot that housed the original attraction almost 50 years ago was an amazing feeling.


Having been working closely with Rolly Crump the past year, being able to “stand” under the Tower of the Four Winds was just amazing.



Sure, it may just be a patch of dirt now, but if I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine being there back in its heyday, listening to the hustle and bustle of the crowd walking by.


In all, it was a great trip, and definitely well worth the drive. Like I mentioned earlier, it was definitely a geek pilgrimage for me, and I really think any Disney fan will get a kick out of it. If you happen to be in the New York area, I would highly recommend checking it out!

 


Tickets are now on sale for the

COMMUNICORE WEEKLY 38TH WEEKAVERSARY
&
EPCOT 30 YEAR ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION!


Come celebrate EPCOT’s 30th Anniversary in style with a live taping of MiceChat’s Communicore Weekly! Join co-hosts Jeff Heimbuch & George Taylor, along with MiceChat’s Dusty Sage, Kevin Yee, and the Communicore Weekly Orchestra, for a fun-filled night of fandom and frivolity as they tape a special hour long episode of the hit show, Communicore Weekly.

Join us on the evening of Saturday, September 29th 2912 in the Norway Pavilion Special Events Lounge in EPCOT’s World Showcase for this one of a kind event!

Your ticket includes:

  • Admission into the live taping of CW in the Norway Pavilion of EPCOT (note: admission into the park is NOT included)!
  • Meet special guest, Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder!
  • Decadent dessert reception!
  • Short scavenger hunt hosted by Kevin Yee before the show will be available to those who would like to participate (prizes will be awarded)!
  • Prizes, giveaways and more!
  • The chance to be a part of EPCOT and Communicore Weekly history!
  • Endless Five Legged Goats and perhaps even a real life Bathroom Break!
  • Exclusive late night ride after park closing on a selected EPCOT attraction to cap off the evening!

 

For more tickets and more information, be sure to visit MiceChat.com/store!


by Jeff Heimbuch

If you have a tip, questions, comments, or gripes, please feel free email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

You can read past columns of The 626 by clicking here!

Jeff can help you plan your perfect Disney vacation with Fairy Godmother Travel! Call him at 732-278-7404 or email him at [email protected] for a free, no-obligation quote for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani or Adventures By Disney.

Jeff also writes another column called From The Mouth Of The Mouse. We invite you to check it out.

Jeff co-hosts the weekly VidCast Communicore Weekly as well!

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About Jeff Heimbuch

Jeff has been in love with all things Disney since a very early age. He writes From The Mouth Of The Mouse and The 626 every week for MiceChat. He also collaborates on The Disney Review every weekend. Aside from that, he is one half of the devastatingly good looking duo of the weekly vid/podcast Communicore Weekly (the other half being fellow MiceChat columnist George Taylor), which you can find at www.communicoreweekly.com Jeff is also writing a book with former Imagineer and Disney Legend, Rolly Crump. You can find out more about the book at www.itskindofacutestory.com

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22 Comments

Comments for A Visit To The 1964/1965 World’s Fair are now closed.

  1. Thanks
    Maybe disney will pay and get it fixed up

    • I doubt it. They have no stake in it since the Fair ended, and it would take a hefty price tag to renovate a lot of it, unfortunately. The city is slowly but surely fixing bits and pieces of it, though!

  2. There is a certain magic to this fair. It’s an absolute shame that more wasn’t done to preserve some of the more iconic elements.

  3. I really enjoyed your tour. Thanks for posting it.

    Are those observation towers from the New York Pavilion the same UFO thingies that were used in one of the “Men In Black” movies?

    • Yup, one and the same! In the MIB mythology, they were put there to “hide” them in plain sight.

      It’s funny, because we made my girlfriends 9 year old watch the movie BEFORE we went just so we could see his reaction when he saw them, haha

  4. What a great article. There should be tours of that place. Hopefully, when virtual reality comes about, we’ll all be able to take a time trip back there. That and Disneyland’s opening day. Plus, I wouldn’t mind visiting a recreation of Pacific Ocean Park…

    • Agreed! I’m sure someone will come along eventually, and rebuild a digital version of the Fair! I mean, there are folks out there doing that for Horizons and the original Imagination ride. Why not this too?!

  5. I recall reading somewhere that both the unisphere and its encircling pool and fountains were renovated within the past few years. That’s why they look in rather good shape. In sharp contrast, the former New York Pavilion doesn’t look like it has been touched in over 40 years. And before everyone knows it, it will have been over 50 years since that structure was originally built!

    • As late as last summer, there were fences around it, fixing it up. And you can tell that it was renovated because it does look STUNNING! The Art Museum is getting fixed up these days.
      The NY Pavilion is in such bad shape, though, it would take a lot (And I mean a LOT) of time and money to make that stable again. Such a shame…

  6. Thanks! Some of my favorite childhood memories were at the Worol’s Fair.

    • “World’s

  7. How did the area look shortly after the fair? Was everything taken out in the months after or were things removed over years?

    It’s pretty amazing to see just how much they removed. Even all the cement that must have covered basically that whole area.

    There are quite a few things from that era that still exist on the other side of the highway. Part of the science museum is a World’s Fair structure and just next to it is where the Ford pavilion was.

    • A lot of stuff was taken down immediately after the fair. Of course, some of the buildings were built to last, specifically so they could stay up for years. But, for the most part, pavilions were torn down when the fair closed in 1965. Some places, like The Austrian Pavilion, were moved to other locations (in this instance, it was moved to update NY and turned into a ski lodge. However, it burned down in 2011).

      There are a few other buildings left on the other side of the highway, but unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to get over there to see them. It was getting late, but some of the taller structures (like the old heliport) could be seen from where I was.

      It’s amazing how little of the actual fair is still there. If you never knew it was there, you would have no idea!

  8. What a great piece of Disney history.

    What is difficult to figure out where the pavilions were?

    • Only when I’m an idiot, and I’m standing about 50 meters away from the original site of it’s a small world because I read the map wrong, haha. But I figured that out fairly quickly!

      For the most part, having an old 1964 Guide Map, a Google Map, and then a Google Map overlayed on the old Guide Map with Photoshop made it much easier to find everything.

      When are you coming for a visit so I can take you?? Haha

  9. A nice trip report, I hope the New York Pavilion get’s remodeled as well.

    Timekeeper

  10. Absolutely spellbinding! I would love see a full set of “then and now” pics. The way the park has matured, you would never know what amazing things were there only 50 years before…

    • I’m kind of working on a “Now and then” piece in a way. Stay tuned!

  11. Jeff, is the map overlay you created available for download somewhere? Any tips on getting to the park from Manhattan and getting around? I’ll be in New York next year and I’d love to go explore the site.

  12. A ghost town in the middle of a town. Thanks for the report.

  13. What a great column, Jeff! I was only 9 when the NYWF opened but I was such a fan! My aunt and uncle got to go, but all they brought back to me was a pencil box from some upstate lake in New York…oh well!

    I totally identify with your ‘geek trip’ idea. I love to vist places where former events occurred and to see how they look now. Keep up the good work!