For two summers, visitors to the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens, celebrated the dawn of the space age and technology that would come to change the American experience.
Opening day was April 22, 1964 and the fair brought enthusiasm to a nation still reeling from the assassination of President Kennedy five months earlier.
The theme of the fair was “Peace through Understanding” and featured exhibits such as General Motors’ “Futurama II” depicting the world of 2064, AT&T’s Picturephone, IBM’s basic computers, NASA’s model rockets foreshadowing a trip to the moon, and utility companies tout atomic energy, and the “It’s a Small World” exhibit featuring animatronic singing dolls representing children from around the world.
Robert Moses, New York City planner and “master builder” for much of the city’s public construction, was the major force behind fair project. Once a former ash dump and an area made famous by The Great Gatsby as the “valley of the ashes,” the World’s Fair put Flushing Meadows Corona Park, on the world’s map once again.
The park was officially turned back over to the city in June 1967, and Queens was given sprawling greenspaces, sculptures and a pitch-and-putt golf course, left over from the fair. The Queens Zoo, 18-acre zoo, opened in the park the following year.
The most iconic structures, the Unisphere, built by U.S. Steel to symbolize the dawn of the Space Age, and the New York State Pavilion with its observation towers, designed by legendary architect Philip Johnson to provide wide views of the fair, and the New York Hall of Science still stand today. Other permanent sites are the New York City Pavilion, which is now the Queens Museum and the Theaterama which is now the Queens Theater.