Happy birthday, New York World’s Fair!

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. This year is also the 75th anniversary of the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, which took place in the same park in Queens. I can’t be at today’s festivities (which include the New York State Pavilion being open to the public from 11 am to 2 pm – if you’re in New York City, please try to find a way to take advantage of this RARE opportunity!), but I made a quick and dirty Google Map featuring some of my favorite highlights of each fair. In most cases, I’ve marked spots where you can still see some physical evidence of the item or event, but a few – like the Carousel of Progress & it’s a small world pavilion locations – are just grassy fields today.

I’ll continue adding to this as time goes on (and as I learn the finer points of Google Mapping), but this is a pretty good start if you’re a fairground newbie. A link to the full map, freed from its iframe, is here.

Also, because I am pretending I am at the fairgrounds today, here’s a picture of me with the Unisphere when they had the fountains on for the Queens Museum’s grand reopening last fall.

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Quick Hit: The Unisphere!

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Unisphere, taken between 1980 and 2006 – Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

I have gushed before about visiting Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the site of both the 1939-40 and 1964-65 world’s fairs. One of my favorite fair remnants is, of course, the Unisphere, which has become one of the most recognizable symbols of Queens, though few people get out to see it in person. 

The structure is huge, and it’s very, very difficult to get a feel for its scale in photos. Standing 140 feet tall (that’s 12 stories!), it’s the largest globe structure in the world. It was built for the 64-65 world’s fair, the theme of which was “Peace Through Understanding”. The Unisphere itself was dedicated to “Man’s Achievements on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe”. I love that dedication — I think it’s entirely relevant today, nearly 50 years and several paradigms later.

The structure was built on the foundations of the Perisphere, the centerpiece of the 39-40 World’s Fair. It was donated by the US Steel Corporation and built by Mohawk ironworkers. The three rings represent the paths of the three satellites that were in orbit during the fair, and at night a light glowed from the site of each capitol city on the globe, including one for the Kahnawake Indian Reservation, in honor of the Mohawks. In order to prevent any of those lights from going dark during the two fair seasons, there were three bulbs on a rotating base that could be rotated out if any light burnt out.

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Nowadays, the Unisphere mostly looks like this photo, taken in April – sort of sad. The fountains at its base are usually empty (or holding some stagnant water if there’s been a rainstorm lately), and kids are usually playing on its base or skateboarding around the edge of the fountains. There is one glorious time of the year, though, when Flushing Meadows-Corona Park takes the national stage, and the Parks Department decides it’s worthwhile to turn those fountains on.

In late August and early September, the US Open tennis tournament enlivens this end of the park with scores of people hanging out all day long to watch tennis matches. AND the Unisphere has its pools full and fountains on, spraying water joyfully into the air! 

If you’re heading out there between now and Monday to catch some tennis, definitely stop by the Unisphere for a gander and a photo. And, if you’ve been meaning to get out to Corona to explore the World’s Fair history there, it’s as good a time as any. Unfortunately the Queens Museum is closed for renovation until October, but there’s still plenty to enjoy – including baby sea lions at the Queens Zoo, also located in the boundaries of the park!

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Dutch Kills, Long Island City

This weekend, E and I met some friends at what is rapidly becoming one of my favorite bars, Dutch Kills. Located just a ten minute train ride away from home in Long Island City, Queens, Dutch Kills is a bar that is hiding in plain sight. From the street, a  blinking white neon sign reads, simply, “BAR.” The windows are blacked out, and a sign advertising a blue print shop hangs over the storefront. A small hallway leads into a narrow, dimly lit area with high wooden booths, so that it looks like nothing special from the outside. If you venture in further, you’ll see the fully stocked bar (see here, via this post) manned by barkeeps in vests and suspenders.

While not technically a speakeasy, Dutch Kills definitely nods to the Prohibition Era. But the aesthetics of the joint, though nothing to scoff at, are a minor attraction. The real stars of the night are the cocktails. The menu may not seem like much, but the bartenders’ know more than what’s there, anyway. Tell them what you like (or what you don’t) and they’ll whip you up something that’s sure to please. Each drink has the right hand-cut ice to keep it cool — on the rock, served long, or crushed.

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I am, generally, more of a beer gal than a cocktail connoisseur, but I have never left Dutch Kills dissatisfied (in fact, I’ve been feeling more inspired to build my bar at home). The beverages are always perfect, the atmosphere is great for a relaxed Friday night, and the service is spot on. At $11 per cocktail, the prices are reasonable, and the bar is close to the N, Q, 7, E, M, R, and G trains, making it a great meeting place for friends from Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. I’m already plotting my next trip back.