Consigned to Oblivion

Scene of demolition

View of fair grounds recently. Wreckers have taken over where 51.6 million persons once visited exhibits. Unisphere, rear, will remain after grounds of fair are made into a park.


Deadline Extended to Dec. 31 -- Landmarks Vanish


Professional wreckers are laboring through the winter months at the World's Fair methodically reducing the billion-dollar showplace to a relatively quiet mid-Queens park site.

Where 51.6 million people from all parts of the world visited the two-year exhibition's pavilions, restaurants and amusement facilities, the teams of wreckers have taken over. The principal tools for the enormous demolition project are the cutting torch, the bulldozer and the wrecker's ball.

The program calls for the removal of more than 100 structures from the Flushing Meadow fairground and the restoration of the 646-acre site so a park complex can be created.

Only Park for Now

Because fair revenues fell far short of those anticipated, the site will be the only park to be developed for the present out of an elaborate corridor system of parks that had been envisaged by fair officials as honey-combing the center of the borough.

Original leases called for the exhibitors to have their structures cleared and the sites restored within 90 days of the fair's closing date, last Oct. 17.

The deadline has been extended to Dec. 31 of this year, and the wreckers are still ripping away at major pavilions scheduled for removal. Many sites are leveled and a fair spokesman said that most of the buildings would be down by July 1.

Some of the huge pavilions, such as the General Motors and Ford buildings are being torn and cut apart for lumber and steel salvage. Other smaller structures have been carefully dismantled to be reassembled elsewhere.

Shipped to Indonesia

In the latter category, Indonesia's pavilion was shipped home while Thailand's 18th century Buddhist shrine is to be reassembled at Montreal for that city's "Expo '67." Other pavilions have been sold or given away for various uses -- Denmark's is now a restaurant in Westport, Conn.

However, several prominent buildings and other structures visible from the Long Island Expressway and the network of roads in the area, are proving to be headaches for fair officials. Some receivers took over bankrupt exhibitors, and exhibiting companies simply haven't disposed of others.

A vexing problem has been posed by one of the most prominent -- the steep roofed buildings forming the Belgian Village. The picturesque exhibit had suffered from financial difficulties even in its construction stages and was finally opened the day before the fair ended its first season.

Another landmark to be erased is A.M.F.'s monorail. A contract has been let to demolish its concrete supports, but the future of the rail system and cars is still up in the air.

The list of structures that are to become permanent fixtures include the $4-million Unisphere, the Greyhound Pavilion (for the city's Fire Department), the $5.8-million marina, the $8-million Hall of Science and the $1-million Space Park exhibit.

The fate of the heliport, a $7-million structure, is still undecided. Negotiations and discussions are continuing for the massive Federal Building and the building complex of the New York State Pavilion, each of which cost about $12-million.

Buildings to remain include the press building (to the Police Department), the administration building (Parks Department), the Singer Bowl, the entrance building, the post office and maintenance buildings.

The Wrecking Corporation of America, one of the major demolition contractors working on the site, is tearing down the Ford Pavilion. The job is second in size only to the General Motors Pavilion, which was the biggest wrecking project on the grounds.

Joseph Hall, a coordinator for the wrecking concern's many projects at the fairgrounds, said, "the main delay was in removing exhibits, machinery and fixtures before wrecking work could be started on the actual structures."

"While it appeared from the outside that nothing was being accomplished, fairly decent weather has enabled us to maintain all schedules," he said.

Wrecking projects

The Wrecking Corporation of America's projects include pavilions and exhibits of R.C.A., National Cash Register, Johnson's Wax (the steel is to be shipped to Racine, Wis., to be re-erected for a company theater building), Church of the Latter-day Saints, Republic of China and U. S. Rubber.

Much of the exhibits' equipment, especially from the restaurants and amusement centers, was eagerly bought by amusement park and restaurant operators from all parts of the country.

Charles R. Wood, a park operator and restauranteur of Lake George, N. Y., bought the U. S. Rubber ferris wheel and Greyhound's trams, as well as lighting and ground equipment.

Many of the fair's Walt Disney creations have been moved to Disneyland in California. They include the Lincoln exhibit at the Illinois Pavilion, General Electric's Wonderful World of Tomorrow and the Pepsi Cola "Small World" exhibit.

Left: A workman rides on the neck of the Sinclair dinosaur during the dismantling operation. (NY Times) Right: The wrecking ball is reducing the Kodak exhibit to rubble. (UPI)

Packing Thailand for Expo67

 IBM Demolition

Left: Thailand's pavilion is being crated for a trip to 1967 fair in Montreal. (UPI) Above: Crane aids the demolition of the I.B.M. pavilion at Flushing Meadow site. (Eliovson)

 Sinclair Demolition

Kodak Demolition

Source: New York Times, Winter, 1966
_Photo: United Press International (topmost)

Gone but not forgotten

These are sad days, indeed, for nostalgic World's Fair fans as they realize that what went up on Flushing Meadow must come down, that the fantasy of yesteryear's cheery scrapbook is the dross of today's dreary scrapheap. Where once the fascination of foreign flavors, pride of industry and gaiety of crowds held sway, there reigns the rasp of cutting torch, smash of wrecker's ball and crunch of bulldozer. Among the few structures sure to survive are the Unisphere and the Hall of Science. But after this painful phase passes, a relatively quiet park will cover the site.

 IBM Demolition

A 20th Century Humpty-Dumpty, the shell-shucked egg atop IBM is a sorry reflection of its former self.

If you didn't know better, you might think this was a bomb-blasted town of World War II ...

Debris and desolation at Belgian Village

Belgian Village Demolition

... instead of the dying days of the re-created Belgian Village.

Hold the phone! Here's the Bell System's one-time pride and joy looking, these days, like an aircraft carrier undergoing scrapping high in drydock. Bell System Demolition

The giant General Motors pavilion is en route to becoming a vast heap of lumber and steel salvage. On the other hand, Thailand's is being crated for shipment to the 1967 exposition in Montreal.

GM Demolition
The Vatican pavilion, where Michelangelo's "Pieta" kindled the souls of millions, makes a chilling scene today. The wrecker's deadline has been extended to Dec. 31. Vatican Demolition

Source: New York Sunday News, March 27, 1966
_Photo: News Colorfotos by Edmund Peters

Source: (all) online auction (eBay)
General Motors Demolition General Motors demolition.
Belgian Village Demolition Belgian Village demolition.
Demolition of T&T Pavilion Transportation & Travel demolition.
Source: (both) online auction (eBay), possibly Peter Warner collection
General Electric Demolition The General Electric Pavilion demolition.
IBM Demolition IBM Pavilion demolition.

The following photos are a contribution of Bruce Mentone. Judging from the state of demolition and the condition of the site, they appear to have been taken in April or May, 1966. Bruce reports he snapped these photos of the demolition as his father drove him around the perimeter of the Fairgrounds.

Ford Demolition The Ford Pavilion showing demolition work on the structural steel of the main pavilion. The Rotunda still has the pylons and "Magic Skyway" tubes in place.
GM Demolition The General Motors Pavilion demolition was the largest such job on the Fair site.
Vatican Demolition Beyond the debris of the Belgian Village, workers demolish the rear wall of the Vatican Pavilion. 
Belgian Village Demolition The church of the Belgian Village is reduced to rubble.
Debris field that was the Industrial Area Industrial Area demolition makes for a wasteland of debris. The ovoid theater of the IBM Pavilion can be seen in the distance as well as the dome and towers of the General Electric Pavilion in this view taken from the site of the leveled Pepsi-Cola Pavilion.
Bell System Demolition Rear view of Bell System structural steel with fiberglass "skin" nearly all removed now.
Source: All photos this section, © Copyright 2001, Bruce Mentone. All Rights Reserved. Do not reprint without permission from the owner!

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