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The World's Fair in Queens, New York

The 1939/1940 and the 1964/1965 World's Fairs

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Towers from 1964-65 World's Fair at Flushing Meadows Park

Towers from 1964-65 World's Fair at Flushing Meadows Park

Photo by John Roleke

The World's Fair was held twice in the New York City borough of Queens, once in 1939/1940 and again in 1964/1965 at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. These are the only World's Fairs ever to be held over two seasons.

New York was also host to a World's Fair in 1853, the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations held in Manhattan at what is now Bryant Park.

1939/1940 World's Fair

This fair was the second largest ever held in the United States, second only to the St. Louis's Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. Master planner Robert Moses used the fair as an opportunity to build Flushing Meadows Park, draining swampland and cleaning up the immense ash pile at the site known as Mount Corona. However, due to financial shortfalls, the park envisioned by Moses was not completed until the 1964/1965 fair.

Many counties participated setting up pavilions, and a crowd estimated at 44 million attended. The signature landmarks of the fair were the Trylon and Perisphere, the tower and dome structure. The fair endeavored to show visitors "the world of tomorrow." Novel technologies shown at the fair included fluorescent lighting, air conditioning, nylon, and color photos.

The Life Saver Parachute Jump from the fair should be recognizable to anyone who has visited Coney Island. This ride was moved to Coney Island after the fair.

1964/1965 World's Fair

The 1964/1965 World's Fair was one of the high points of New York City history in the 1960s. It was a time of optimism before the travails of the Vietnam War and protest era. The fair attracted national and international attention and showcased the city that never sleeps and the dawn of the American Space Age.

Some 51 million visitors attended the fair. A generation of New Yorkers were touched by their visits to the fair. Strike up a conversation with New York Baby Boomers -- anyone who was a child, teen, or young adult in the mid-1960s -- and you're bound to hear stories of the fair.

Legacy - Structures from the World's Fairs

Some structures remains and have been repurposed at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, including:

  • 250-foot Towers of the New York State Pavilion (which still stand, somewhat precariously)
  • Unisphere
  • New York Hall of Science (a science museum which had been the Hall of Science)
  • The fair's former Helipad is now the Terrace on the Park catering hall
  • World's Fair Building/Churchill Tribute became the aviary at the Queens Zoo

The Queens Museum of Art is housed today in the former New York City pavilion from the 1939/1940 fair. The museum's attractions include the Panorama, a scale-model of New York City built for the 1964/1965 fair, as well as exhibits and memorabilia of both fairs.

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