The New York State Pavilion: Does it deserve restoration?

The New York State Pavilion was first presented at the World’s Fair of 1964 in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Combined with the Unisphere, the Tent of Tomorrow was once a grandiose set of towers that is currently the center of debate, which requires funding for its restoration back to its original state. The controversy has politicians and local Queens residents weighing in about whether or not to restore these two structures. The Tent of Tomorrow is a valuable part of Queens, one that once represented the past vision of the future.

Originally planned out in 1939, the Unisphere, which is a large recognizable-to-all globe, greets visitors of the Queens Museum and Flushing Meadows Park as they begin their tour of the location. However, as visitors proceed, they also see a set of three high tents that are labeled “The Tent of Tomorrow.” Designed by architect Philip Johnson, The Tent of Tomorrow is a set of three towers, two of which were once cafeterias, and the tallest tower served its purpose as an observation deck. (nycgovparks.org) During the World’s Fair of 1964, “visitors ascended to towers in the ‘Sky Streak’ capsule elevators.” (nycgovparks.org) Yet, the largest part of the pavilion “included a display from the New York State Power and Authority with a 26 foot scale replica of the St. Lawrence hydroelectric plant. The pavilion’s mezzanine featured art from local museums and information about the state’s industries along a path called ‘Highways through New York.’” (nycgovparks.org)

Yet the most fascinating aspect of the New York State Pavilion was the Texaco’s Company’s map of New York State. “The map was designed with 567 Terrazzo mosaic panels, each weighing 400 pounds. Rand McNally & Company assisted in constructing the $1,000,000 map, which featured the 50,000 square miles of New York State in meticulous detail. The cities, towns, highways, roads, and Texaco stations were accurately mapped in the 9,000 square-foot  design.” (nycgovparks.org) The map covered the entire floor of the pavilion, and with the light peeking through the glass roof, which consisted of red, orange, blue, and pink glass panels, the mosaic lit up as you stood to look at it.

The New York State Pavilion has really become the most fascinating structure not just in New York, but all over the world. During the 1964 World’s Fair, countries, such as, Canada, Australia, and other European nations, all participated in the World’s Fair. However, the fair was also dedicated to the curious children of Queens and their parents. According to Harley J. Spiller, an inspector and collector of coins “as a souvenir, all of the kids were given a neutron irritated dime” that was embedded into the blue border, which represented the fair’s name and the Atomic Energy Commission. Besides, the fair was a perfect opportunity for young and old entrepreneurs to try their luck with their inventions. Indeed the fair was an ideal occasion for Mr. Walt Disney himself, to see if his “It’s a Small World” ride would become popular among youngsters and their parents. It would eventually attract visitors to the permanent location of Disney’s World Park in Florida.

The Tent of Tomorrow has not just become an art piece that was represented at the fair, but it also had its spotlight in movies, music videos, and as a concert setting. After the World’s Fair came to a close in 1965, the pavilion was used as a roller skating rink for many citizens of Queens and the rest of New York. A popular attraction for many, the rink initially lost its clientele. However after the rink was closed,  the Tent of Tomorrow was featured in movies, such as Men in Black (1990s) and Tomorrowland (2015), as well as the backdrop to music videos of the 1980s and 1990s. The New York State pavilion was also used as a setting for rock & roll concerts in the 80s however, because the city was afraid of the glass roof collapsing and hurting people due to the rough music vibrations during the concert, the glass panels were extracted from their original placement.

There is a constant debate about whether or not the New York State Pavilion should be restored back to its original shape and form. There are arguments for and against the restoration because of one main reason: money. According to WNYC News, “A study by the Parks Department found it could cost more than $72 million to fully restore the tent and towers. Demolishing the buildings, on the other hand, would cost an estimated $14 million.”  However, there are many arguments coming from the activists, who are pro-restoration. One of those activists is John Piro, “who co-founded the Pavilion Paint Project, said he hopes the pavilion will get a new lease on life. ‘When you’re in here, you can feel the energy of all the people who work here,’ he said. ‘There was so much fun, so much laughter. This building must stay.’” (wnyc.org) In addition, the Queens Borough President, Melinda Katz, stated “The city is willing to spent $14 million to demolish the site, why not put that money toward a restoration fund?” (wnyc.org) Yet, there are still so many others who would want to see the building come crashing down. Many anti-restoration activists state that it is difficult to get to the structure because of the complicated highway route, however, the 7 train stops approximately a mile away from the Queens Museum and the New York State pavilion.

The New York State Pavilion represents what was once known as the past vision of the future and was used as an attraction for many visitors around the globe. With visitors including Mitt Romney and possibly, your grandfather, the structure holds many memories of the population of prosperous Queens. Besides, it has become a structure that fascinates many, including the young and the old. Although this was once a vision of the past, it has since kept its vision of the future.

Written By Sophia Ostapenko

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Photos Taken by Sophia Ostapenko

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