“Future Perfect: Reconstructing the 1939 NY World’s Fair,” a photo exhibition at the Queens Museum of Art, documents the striking transformation of Flushing Meadows Corona Park from a notorious ash dump to the site of the 1939 World’s Fair.
Bound by Flushing Bay to the north and Kew Kardens to the south, the fairgrounds created a sprawling 1200-acre exhibit, which also set the parameters for the park as we know it today. The museum’s installation features vintage gelatin silver prints, blueprints and original documents that illustrate the park’s conversion. The fair broke ground on June 29, 1935 and took more than three years to build. Legendary parks commissioner Robert Moses spearheaded a clean up of the “valley of ashes,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald referred to it in “The Great Gatsby.” The effort cost the city nearly a billion in today’s dollars.
Explore some of the exhibition’s images below:
The idea for the New York World Fair was first conceived in 1934 — in the depths of the Great Depression. A year later, Grover Whalen, a popular former police commissioner became the fair’s president and called the initiative “Building the World of Tomorrow.” In a pre-War America, organizers hoped the event would serve as a symbol of hope for the public and a space for industry leaders to showcase innovative technologies. The city’s urban park rangers are hosting an educational event this weekend that will explore both of New York’s World’s Fairs and how they helped shaped the urban landscape. The event is free and will take place on Saturday, August 20 at Flushing Meadows Corona Park from 1:00 p.m.–2:30 p.m.
For MetroFocus, Laura Savini interviewed James Mauro, author of “Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War,” which chronicles the construction of the New York fair. Mauro’s account examines the fairs’ theme of word unity within the context of political unrest and the mounting war in Europe. His narrative weaves in the story of two NYPD detectives who were killed when a bomb detonated on the fairground on July 4, 1940,New York City’s first terrorist attack.
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Megan Thompson produced this field piece for MetroFocus.