When the New York World’s Fair opened up in Flushing Meadow Park on April 22nd, 1964, it brought the promise of tomorrow and the cultures of today into the heart of Queens. With over 140 purpose-built pavilions spanning the park’s 897 acres, it was a spectacle to behold for the 51 million people who visited it up until its closing on October 17th, 1965. Although the Unisphere and New York State Pavilion, among other things, continue to reside in Flushing today, most of the fair’s pavilions were destroyed or relocated following the fair’s closure in 1965. Long Islanders who wish to see remnants of this event need not venture across the globe (or even into Queens), however, because many pieces of the fair have found new homes within Nassau and Suffolk county. From small pieces of larger exhibits to fully relocated buildings, the Long Island of today has become something of a retirement home for the “world of tomorrow” and the pavilions that dazzled millions. What follows is a list of all the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair remnants that exist on Long Island today:
Peace Through Understanding Arch
Cherry Valley Supermarket, West Hempstead.
Sponsored by General Foods, eleven 60-foot parabolic arches, branded with the phrase “Peace Though Understanding,” stood throughout the ‘64-65 fairgrounds, acting as rendezvous points for visiting families. After the fair’s closure, one of the arches was purchased by Arnold “Whitey” Carson, who used it as the entrance sign for his newly-built Island Garden Arena in West Hempstead. Although the arena was demolished in 1973, the arch was left untouched and stands in West Hempstead today – now holding signs for the Cherry Valley Supermarket strip mall. Most of the other arches were demolished, with only a few others standing today at a park in Warwick, RI, a quarry in Huntsville, OH, and a resort in Old Forge, NY.
The Sculpture Continuum
Valley Stream/Franklin Square
The Chunky Candy Company’s World’s Fair pavilion featured a glass automated candy factory and the “Sculpture Continuum,” a series of 13 climbable sculptures by Oliver O’Conner Barret. Each of the pieces took the (abstract) form of various things, mainly circus animals. After the fair, the 13 sculptures were purchased by the Valley Stream School District for $2,500 and used as a playground before being placed into storage. Today, three of these pieces (a giraffe, a rhino, and an upside-down man) stand outside the James A. Dever Elementary School in Valley Stream, and another – an elephant – can be found outside of Willow Elementary in Franklin Square.
The Antique Car Ride
Sponsored by Avis Rent-A-Car, the Antique Car Ride allowed fair visitors to drive around a faux countryside in an old-fashioned automobile. In 1978, William Miller – owner of the Adventureland amusement park in Farmingdale – purchased the ride, where it still runs for guests today.
The Mormon Pavilion
In addition to national and corporate pavilions, the 1964 World’s Fair featured attractions sponsored by the world’s largest religions. Among these was a pavilion sponsored by the Church of Latter-Day Saints, featuring a 127-foot replica of the Salt Lake City temple, flanked by two additional wings. Although most of the building was demolished, one of the building’s wings was relocated and repurposed, serving as a Mormon church in Plainview today.
The Long Island Railroad Pavilion
One of the only Long Island corporations to sponsor an attraction at the 1964-65 World’s Fair, the Long Island Railroad Pavilion took the form of a massive open-air tent, offering a miniature train ride around models of notable Long Island destinations. That miniature train, a G-16 model, was purchased by the Grumman Aircraft corp. after the fair ended and was used as children’s entertainment during company picnics and events. Today, the train is part of the permanent collection of the Railroad Museum of Long Island in Riverhead, where it still operates today – available for children to ride. Another piece of the Long Island Railroad Pavilion, a life-size diesel engine cab, is on display at the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum, having been recently restored to its original 1964 color scheme.
Florida Pavilion Porpoise
One of the most popular state pavilions at the 1964 World’s Fair was the State of Florida’s live porpoise show (second, perhaps, only to the State of Illinois animatronic Abraham Lincoln.) Although the real porpoises used in the show have all since passed away, a statue of one that was once part of the attraction can be found at the entrance to the parking lot of the Garden City town pool today.
The Sinclair Canopy
LaMotta’s, Port Washington
The Sinclair oil company had a huge presence at the 1964 World’s Fair. From its renowned Dinoland exhibit to its famous floating fuel station in the middle of the World’s Fair Marina. The latter of these exhibits, which featured a massive red and white fiberglass canopy, was purchased by Mario LaMotta in 1968 and towed to Manhasset, where it continued use as a boat refueling station in the middle of the bay. When LaMotta’s restaurant was constructed in Port Washington in 1993, the red and white canopy was built into it, where it still stands for diners to see today.
Other Possible Remnants
While browsing the internet to research for this article, I came across an official World’s Fair document that read, “Buildings to be Relocated In Whole or in Part Elsewhere – February 16th, 1966.” While this list contains many relocations that are well known (including the Mormon Pavilion mentioned before), it also includes reference to other Long Island relocations that may or may not have happened. These include “Boy Scouts Pavilion to Long Island Boy Scouts,” “Identity Building and South Precinct to Great Neck Public Schools,” and “Ireland Pavilion to Grover’s Marine Base, Freeport, Long Island.” Whether or not these relocations took place remains unknown, but it is certainly possible that they did. This, of course, means that there are more relics of the 1964-65 fair waiting to be discovered on our island.
Now, nearly 60 years since it first opened, the 1964 World’s Fair remains the gold standard for international exhibitions and an everlasting memory for those lucky enough to experience it. In addition to the remnants found on Long Island, traces of the fair can be found throughout the country and the world. From General Electric’s Progressland (better known as “The Carousel of Progress”) and S.C. Johnson’s Golden Rondelle Theater – which run in Orlando, Fl and Racine, WI, respectively, today – to the Swiss Skyway gondolas at Six Flags Great Adventure and IBM’s Mathematica! at the New York Hall of Science, pieces of the fair have been relocated to places far and wide. Some have suffered strange fates (the Spain Pavilion is now a Hilton Hotel in Missouri), others have suffered sad ones (the Austria Pavilion burned to the ground after being relocated upstate), but in all scenarios, the magnificent attractions of the 1964-65 NY World’s Fair were able to find new homes after the world of tomorrow became a memory of yesterday.
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