Globe Trotting in New York (Episode #62)
Visiting the Unisphere among the architectural relics left behind from the hey day of New York’s World Fair in 1964 in Queens…
Then off on a drive through Harlem to Columbus Circle where sits another famous Unisphere inspired Globe.
Imagine building the largest World Fair complex ever held in America…imagine spending buku bucks on building 175 Pavilions in hopes that it will attract millions of tourists world wide to New York….and imagine all this for an event that only lasted 2 years, that is 2 six month long seasons. Covering nearly a square mile, this World’s Fair opened on April 22, 1964 in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the Borough of Queens hailing itself as a Universal and International exposition.
Some of the interesting pavilions at the World Fair was The Vatican Pavilion that brought with it the famous Michelangelo Pieta that’s normally displayed in St Peter’s Basilica. Also on display was a replica of St Peter’s burial place excavated beneath the Basilica of St Peter.
The Masonic Pavilion showcased its history and memorabilia dating back to Medieval Times.
Hollywood also had a pavilion, a replica of Grauman’s Chinese theater complete with hand and footprints of celebrities on its pavement.
Foreign pavilions were a huge hit with people who had never been to Europe, with replicas like the 4 acre creation of a 19th century Belgium Village or Spain with its romantic setting and authentic architecture delighted people with exhibitions by famous artists like Goya, Velesquez, El Greco, and Picasso.
In order to achieve top notch entertainment, Walt Disney was called in to design some significant displays like Pepsi Cola’s “It’s a Small World“, a salute to UNICEF.
Information Age is not a recent term, computers, picture phones, and other globalized communication gadgets we take for granted today was on display back then.
But the Fair was not exactly a conservative Disney Park because bars and discoteques with go-go dancers were also added.
Another famous showpiece and also the symbol of New York’s World Fair is the Unisphere...or the Globe as I kept calling it, or Globitron as others call it.
This 12 story high stainless steel in relief representation of the Earth, is the icon that defined Man’s Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe. It’s also the world’s largest global structure weighing around 700,000 tons, at a cost of about $2 million. Special effects no longer in operation after the World Fair closed are dramatic light effects and unique lights representing capitals of nations. Although not known for certain, the orbit rings are thought to represent the tracks of the first man in space, the first American to orbit the Earth, and Teslar – the first active communications satellite. The surrounding water jet fountains, which aren’t in use right now, were designed to obscure it’s tripod pedestal and give the Unisphere the illusion of floating in space like the Earth
To me, the World Fair reminds me of something out of the Jetsons, also a 60′s popular cartoon.
Because the organizers of the Fair broke the rules of the Bureau of International Expositions by holding the Fair in spite of not being granted the bid, the Bureau had the last word when it formally requested other member countries NOT to particiate in the New York World Fair…and without the expected international participation, attendance fell way below the 70 million people it required to cover the cost of the Fair….and at only 51 million, it lost money and was unable to repay its financial backers their investments, resulting in legal disputes lasting a few more years to come.
Most of the pavilions constructed for the World’s Fair were demolished 6 months after the Fair ended, some still survive in decrepit state from decades of neglect, some have been renovated like the Queens Museum of Art and Queens Theater. Some other pavilions have been transported elsewhere and reused.
These Jetsons space age looking towers, or officially the Observatory Towers, used to have restaurants at the top. Now although in disuse, they have been featured Grand Theft Auto IV, and more famously Men in Black..remember that scene??
For the life of me, I can’t imagine why no one bought out this place, renovated it, and give life again, instead of allowing it to turn into relics far too damaged by time and elements to renovate.
So, we’re off again to check out another famous Globe in New Y0rk, but to get there, we’ll have to drive through Harlem.
On the way to our next destination we also have to pass through the Upper East Side along 5th Avenue. Here, we see other notable sights of New York, like Museum Row. Then we head over to Upper West Side. While in Upper West Side we stop at a Farmers’ Market that’s literally in an island at the crossroads approximately 69th and Broadway. Here local farmers bring fresh fruits, vegetables, and even baked goods and honey. It’s a great unexpected find….From here it’s a short drive to our next destination….Columbus Circle!
Columbus Circle, is a major landmark in Manhattan at the intersection of Broadway, Central Park West, Central Park South, and 8th Avenue. It was built in 1905 in honor of Christopher Columbus, and the monument at the center was created by Italian sculptor Gaetano Russo. The circle was recently renovated in 2005 providing new water fountains, benches and plants.
To get here by public transportation is easy because from the start, Columbus Circle has been a major transportation hub for busses and subways that connect at the 59 street-Columbus Circle.
The steel globe that’s famous in this circle belongs to the Trump International Hotel and Tower, and the globe is right out it’s main entrance. Looks very much like the Unisphere, doesn’t it??
On the west side of the circle is the Time Warner Center, the world headquarters of the Time Warner corporation. Inside is the New York City studio headquarters of CNN as well as the Shops at Columbus Circle with some interesting sculptures greeting you as you enter.
Whether you want to come to shop or eat at one of the fancy restaurants here, you should also check out the view of the circle and Central Park behind it from the 2nd floor. You must go up the escalator first..
From here you can go out and take a walk in Central Park, or take the bus or train to another fabulous place in New York. Until next time, ciao for now!