If you’ve ever taken a cab from JFK Airport into Manhattan, you might have noticed a few ghost-like structures rising beyond the Grand Central Parkway in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, New York. They are remnants from the 1964–1965 World’s Fair. Many of the magnificent structures built for this global exposition were torn down long ago; however, 50 years later, a few significant relics still stand.
The theme of the fair was “Peace Through Understanding,” and the strongest symbol of this theme is the Unisphere, a 12-story-tall steel globe that was commissioned to celebrate the beginning of the Space Age. It rises 140 feet, has a diameter of 120 feet, and weighs 700,000-plus pounds.
Another significant relic is the New York State Pavilion, designed by Philip Johnson. The pavilion comprises the “Tent of Tomorrow,” which measures 150 feet by 250 feet and features 16 100-foot-tall columns that originally suspended a 50,000-square-foot roof of multi-colored panels. It also includes three towers, each measuring 60 feet, 150 feet, and 226 feet tall. During the fair, the two shorter towers contained cafeterias, while the tallest tower served as an observation deck. They were accessed via “Sky Streak” capsule elevators.
Adjacent to these World’s Fair remnants is the Queens Museum, which is housed in a structure originally built for the 1939 World’s Fair and that later hosted the United Nations General Assembly (1946–1950). Grimshaw Architects designed an expansion to the museum, which opened last year, and includes a new entrance and galleries.
The highlight of the museum is the Panorama of the City of New York, which was conceived by 1964–1965 World’s Fair President Robert Moses and built over the course of three years by a team of more than 100 employees of model-making firm Raymond Lester & Associates. The model occupies an area of 9,335 square feet and was built to a scale of 1:1,200 (one inch equals 100 feet). It features 895,000 buildings constructed prior to 1992, as well as streets, parks, and 100 bridges.
While it does not likely top the must-visit list of most tourists—or even locals, for that matter—the World’s Fair site and Queens Museum most definitely merit a visit beyond just the view from a cab.