Queens Celebrates 50th Anniversary Of 1964 World's Fair with Tours of New York State Pavilion

By: Apr. 23, 2014
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NYC Parks' Queens Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski today joined Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and National Trust for Historic Preservation board member Paul Goldberger to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening ceremony of the 1964-65 World's Fair and announce that Flushing Meadows Corona Park's New York State Pavilion, one of the most iconic remnants of the 1964 World's Fair, has been named as one of the Trust's "National Treasures." The National Treasures program recognizes historically, culturally and architecturally important sites to raise awareness and funding for their preservation. The Pavilion is one of only 44 sites in the country to bear this designation.

Also attending the event were Congressman Joseph Crowley; State Senator Toby Stavisky; Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry; Council Member Julissa Ferreras; Council Member Peter Koo; Council Member Jimmy van Bramer; Council Member Mark Weprin; NYC Parks' Flushing Meadows Corona Park Administrator Janice Melnick and Director of Historic Preservation John Krawchuk; and members of the New York State Pavilion Paint Project, a volunteer group which has worked to repaint the Tent of Tomorrow's distinctive red and white stripes and yellow trim. Approximately 2,500 event attendees were able to view some of the original road map panels from the Tent of Tomorrow's two-dimensional terrazzo floor. Two restored panels and two unrestored panels depicting sections of Eastern Long Island were on display for comparison. They were also able to visit the inside of the Tent, with tours throughout the day run by volunteers from the Pavilion Paint Project.

"In the last 50 years, Flushing Meadows Corona Park has grown from the site of the World's Fair to the home of the World's Park," said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. "As we celebrate this anniversary, it is just as important that we look to the next 50 years and plan for the Park's future. I would like to thank the National Trust for Historic Preservation for honoring the New York State Pavilion as a 'National Treasure'. This designation will highlight the importance of the Pavilion as a national icon, and help us to continue the conversation about how it can best serve Queens' residents."

"I am very pleased with the decision of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to select the New York State Pavilion to be one of its National Treasures," said Queens Borough President, and co-chair of the World's Fair Anniversary Committee, Melinda Katz. "This designation is most appropriate given the Pavilion's distinctive architectural style and its connection to the excitement and hopefulness that captivated the world at the beginning of the Space Age. The announcement of this wonderful news is the perfect way to kick off our six-month slate of activities that will celebrate the 50th and 75th anniversaries of the 1964 and 1939 World's Fairs."

"This national treasure designation is wonderful news as we launch our commemoration of the two great fairs that took place here, said Assemblywoman, and co-chair of the World's Fair Anniversary Committee, Margaret Markey. "It should also mean that we can be optimistic about the preservation and re-use of the entire iconic New York Pavilion just as other signature structures from those Fairs have become vital cultural organizations for Queens and New York City."

"The Pavilion represents a pivotal time in American history when the allure of putting a man on the moon inspired renowned architect Philip Johnson to create this emblem for Space Age enthusiasm," said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Meeks added, "We are honored to join Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, the New York Landmarks Conservancy and community groups like the Paint Project and the People for the Pavilion, to celebrate this anniversary and to team with local leaders to preserve and restore this iconic landmark."

"This day marks an event of the rebirth of the New York State Pavilion, said Pavilion Paint Project Founder John Piro. "We are determined to bring back the excitement and energy that 1964 NY World's Fair brought to Queens and the City of New York."

The New York State Pavilion was originally built for the 1964-65 World's Fair. It consisted of the Tent of Tomorrow, three Observation Towers and the Theaterama, which is now the Queens Theatre. During the Fair, the Observation Towers held a snack bar, gift shop and viewing areas, with the tallest tower perched

226 feet above the fairground. The Tent of Tomorrow was an open exhibition space, highlighting New York attractions and hosting performances.

The Tent's floor was designed as the world's largest map, depicting the entire State of New York in terrazzo paving with 567 panels, each weighing 400 pounds. The map was sponsored by Texaco, so along with towns and roads it also showed the locations of the company's gas stations.

In 2006, conservationists from the University of Pennsylvania, working with the NYC Parks, began a multi-year effort to preserve the map and restore some of its panels. Fourteen panels were removed for analysis and 4 panels were restored. The sections of the floor that remained on site were covered in layers of sand, fabric and gravel as a conservation technique in order to preserve them

In recent years, NYC Parks has completed several engineering studies of the Pavilion structures. The latest, finished in 2008 and 2012, found that both the Tent and Towers are structurally sound, and estimated that it would cost approximately $40 million to preserve the structures as architectural elements and approximately $50 million to preserve the structures while also restoring public access. In 2013, Parks began the process of holding public meetings to both share the results of the studies and start a discussion on the future of the space. This was followed by three public listening sessions and an online survey in January of 2014.

As part of the celebrations of the 50th and 75th anniversaries of the World's Fairs, NYC Parks will be hosting a free festival on May 18, featuring World's Fair memorabilia; tours of Fair buildings, sculptures and structures - including the Pavilion; and international food, music and dance. The day will be capped with a live concert and fireworks.

For more information about Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the New York State Pavilion and the May 18 festival, including a complete listing of activities, visit nyc.gov/parks.

A variety of other cultural institutions will also be holding events over the next six months in celebration of the World's Fair anniversaries. A list of these events can be found at itsinqueens.com/worldsfair.

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