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New exhibit at Queens Museum of Art


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#1 CathyS

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Posted 29 March 2011 - 09:58 AM

I get updates from the Queens Museum of Art on my Facebook page....just found a link to this information about a new exhibit opening next month on the 1939 NY Fair:




Future Perfect: Re-Constructing the 1939 New York World’s Fair
April 10 - August 14, 2011

Posted Image McLaughlin Air Service, New York, NY, Aerial photograph showing Bronx Whitestone Bridge and approaches to the World's Fair, April 7, 1939


How to build a World’s fair from scratch or who really was Fish Hooks McCarthy?
April 10 - August 14, 2011

Reaching from Flushing Bay on the north side to Kew Gardens on the south, and from the Federal Building on the east side in Flushing to the western entrance gate on 111th Street in Corona, the New York World’s Fair opened on April 30, 1939, comprising a massive area covering 1,216 acres. New York’s fair (as opposed to the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939-40 that occurred concurrently in San Francisco) broke ground on June 29, 1935 and took over three arduous years to construct. The fair evolved magically from a former salt marsh (utilized in the mid to late nineteenth century as a bucolic recreational area for picnicking, swimming, boating, beer gardens and oyster farming) transformed by the notorious ash dumps of Tammany crony Fish Hooks McCarthy’s Brooklyn Ash Removal Company. Operating from the turn of the century to 1934, the infamous ash dumps were originally introduced into the American consciousness by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby.

“…This is a valley of ashes–a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of grey cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-grey men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud which screens their obscure operations from your sight…

The valley of ashes is bounded on one side by a small foul river, and when the drawbridge is up to let barges through, the passengers on waiting trains can stare at the dismal scene for as long as half an
hour…”

Mountains of ash almost one hundred feet high (created by the dumping and subsequent burning of over one hundred rail cars per day packed with animal carcasses and household refuse) were excavated and moved, then mixed with meadow mat and top soil, to create land fill on the future fairgrounds. This rigorous preliminary reclamation of the landscape took one year by teams of laborers working in 24-hours shifts eerily illuminated by Westinghouse Corporation’s “manmade perpetual sunlight,” 345 1500-watt floodlit units mounted on 80-foot high towers, to prepare the land for construction.

Under the stewardship of Grover Whalen, NYWF Corporation President, Fiorello La Guardia, NYC mayor and NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, and the blessing of FDR’s New Deal, and bookended by the foment of the effects of the Great Depression and the dawn of World War II, a fabulously futuristic and harmoniously designed fair arose in far away Queens. Glistening off in the distance like the magical Emerald City of Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz (published in 1939), it’s exuberantly planned, utopian yet commercial vision beckoned, sadly unavailable to the immigrant populations whose businesses and homes bordered the fair’s periphery.
With vintage silver prints and original documents, Future Perfect: Re-Constructing the 1939 New York World’s Fair will illuminate the colossal undertaking that was the creation of the fair. Copies of the original blueprints for Wallace Harrison’s symbolic Trylon and Perisphere’s steelwork are the inspiration for this exhibition along with a marvelous cache of photographs ground out on a non-stop basis by the official NYWF Department of Press, Whalen’s publicity machine. To create the allure of the fair to potential visitors, these were labeled with heroic captions such as “the 1,216 acre site was made in a 190-day engineering feat of moving nearly 7,000,000 cubic yards of ash “mountain” and meadow mat in a ‘once worthless area’ on Flushing Bay and within a few minutes by rail from mid-town Manhattan…to be a permanent city park after the fair.” From the inception, Moses envisioned the remains of the fairgrounds after closing in 1940 as a people’s park, his “Versailles” for the city. As today, Versailles is the patrimony of the people of France courtesy of LeVau and Hardouin-Mansart’s considered, stately design integrated with LeNotre’s harmonious gardens, it wasn’t until after the subsequent 1964-65 New York World’s Fair that Moses was able to realize much of his original ambitious plans for the park.

The Queens Museum of Art’s permanent home in the New York City Building is one of the very few original structures left standing, and was designed to be the future home of a skating/roller rink. Optimistically touted by the press office as “… a $1,200,000 ‘Glass House’ (permanent) almost ready for the placing of fascinating exhibits depicting modern municipal service to man,” the New York City Building became La Guardia’s favorite location and the site of his summer office for the two summers the fair was in existence.

Other vintage silver prints of previously unexhibited scenes from the collection will be on view: Whalen and La Guardia breaking ground on the fair’s future site, fair designers’ scale model of the fair in the making (and subsequently shipped to Chicago as La Guardia’s promotional tool for selling the fair to the masses), clearing the Corona ash dumps, building of sewer, water and other infrastructures and roads, tree planting, erection of pavilions, aerial views of planes flying over the incomplete steelwork of the Trylon and Perisphere (and the New York City building), carpenters and painters building Con Edison’s City of Light, and even vintage silver prints and original documents relating to Salvador Dali’s notes and construction of his fabulist pavilion realized in the Amusement Zone, Dream of Venus.

The Queens Museum of Art is grateful to numerous donors to our World’s Fair collection who have made this exhibition possible, some anonymous and others too numerous to mention, though we are especially indebted to Irene Feldman and Charles W. Schwartz whose contributions of a vast quantity of the press photographs generated by the NYWF Department of Press form the core of this exhibition.

Future Perfect: Re-Constructing the 1939 New York World’s Fair is organized by Louise Weinberg.



#2 worldsfairent

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 09:50 AM

Wow, that looks great, Cathy. And what a wonderful photo! Thanks for sharing the news. Will definitely have to check this one out.

#3 Jim

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 06:22 PM

That date, April 7, 1939, does not seem accurate for that photograph of the airplane flying over the Trylon and Perisphere. The Fair opened just a few weeks later but in this photograph, the theme center is far from completion. Also, it is not a shot of the Whitestone Bridge. Have I misunderstood this caption?

#4 Bill Cotter

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 07:24 PM

That caption definitely does not match the photo.

#5 expoboy

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 09:14 PM

What I find odd in the photo is certain structures are complete as is landscaping but others, notably Bell Telephone and the pavilions across Grand Central Parkway in the Transportation Zone have not even been started. Could this be a post-fair demolition photo?

#6 Bill Cotter

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 10:10 PM

It sure could be. I'm also trying to figure out what model plane that was.

#7 magikbilly

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 02:47 AM

Hello Everyone,

You are all correct, it is not April 7th, 1939. It it not 1939 at all. What a poorly researched article and effort. The same old F. Scott Fitzgerald tie in and quote...the same old "Mountains of ash 100 feet high..."....the same old Emerald City comparison. I can't stand misidentified photographs! This date is off by many, many months. No surprise here - this article states the Wizard of Oz was published in 1939! That is only off by 39 years! From what is written, the article is clearly talking about the book - not the release date of perhaps the fourth film adaptation since 1900. Who researched and wrote this piece? Can't the QM aim a little higher? One might think the author (I prefer to think this is an individual effort), might walk across a hall and fact check a little with their own 1980 catalog and the other books in the grift shop as well as try to bring some new vantage to the table. I am all for recycling but this is ridiculous. I can see a date being wrong (well...sort of...it is a museum), but the Whitestone Bridge? That bridge is over 2 miles away! And it was not open until three about weeks after April 7, 1939! Did anyone look at this or do they not know where their own museum is located? I mean, the museum is in the photograph. I just looked at the QMA site for this article - the photographs there reveal a reliance on old photo captions for identification. There are unidentified photographs, misidentified photographs (now how could the Trylon even be in that photo of the NYC Building (QMA) under construction). "Building the Future" - well, OK, but with what? Another photo identified as the NYC Building under construction shows it completed with cars running on the Road of Tomorrow. They also state what I feared seeing. That the QMA is the only thing remaining from 1939! Sounds nice, but it is just not true. Someone ought to inform the Bridge of Tomorrow and the Boathouse (another building (still there awaiting "restoration," yes?)). I see the same photo on the same page twice, with different captions..ugh. This was all just from the Building History page and the article above. I say again, can't the QM aim a bit higher? To what standard should a museum that was once part of this very fair be held? "Future Perfect" is a heck of a name...

A date for this photograph. The buildings you are seeing here were mostly Fair Corporation buildings and as such among the first to go up. The others were yet to come. Not demolition - construction. The mural on the Communications building looks to not there at all, its entrance shows the unmodified smaller 1938/39 appearance. The Perisphere, the missing bit...that was the last bit put in. The Consumers building appears to have scaffolding on its eastern corner where one of its murals would eventually be. The radial two-tone pavement around the the Perisphere, the Great Compass and most all other pavement remained in place until well after the Perisphere was gone, but is not visible here. Same with the location of the Great Sundial - it retained its in-ground base until after the Perisphere was gone. Same with the water-spouting bulkhead and water panels along the Mall. The Science/Education building does not show the entrance added for 1940. The material piled near the end of the Helicline is where it should be for a pre-fair construction photograph. There is scaffolding going up on the base of the Trylon. Steel, then scaffold, then surfacing, then removal of scaffolding. A demolition photo would show a very large mess - this is ordered with clean grounds.

So, at this early hour, I am going with late summer 1938 or early fall. And I am not going to make any general statement about museums, World's Fair exhibits and accuracy!

Best wishes,
Eric

#8 CathyS

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 04:44 AM

Hello Everyone,

You are all correct, it is not April 7th, 1939. It it not 1939 at all. What a poorly researched article and effort. The same old F. Scott Fitzgerald tie in and quote...the same old "Mountains of ash 100 feet high..."....the same old Emerald City comparison. I can't stand misidentified photographs! This date is off by many, many months. No surprise here - this article states the Wizard of Oz was published in 1939! That is only off by 39 years! From what is written, the article is clearly talking about the book - not the release date of perhaps the fourth film adaptation since 1900. Who researched and wrote this piece? Can't the QM aim a little higher? One might think the author (I prefer to think this is an individual effort), might walk across a hall and fact check a little with their own 1980 catalog and the other books in the grift shop as well as try to bring some new vantage to the table. I am all for recycling but this is ridiculous. I can see a date being wrong (well...sort of...it is a museum), but the Whitestone Bridge? That bridge is over 2 miles away! And it was not open until three about weeks after April 7, 1939! Did anyone look at this or do they not know where their own museum is located? I mean, the museum is in the photograph. I just looked at the QMA site for this article - the photographs there reveal a reliance on old photo captions for identification. There are unidentified photographs, misidentified photographs (now how could the Trylon even be in that photo of the NYC Building (QMA) under construction). "Building the Future" - well, OK, but with what? Another photo identified as the NYC Building under construction shows it completed with cars running on the Road of Tomorrow. They also state what I feared seeing. That the QMA is the only thing remaining from 1939! Sounds nice, but it is just not true. Someone ought to inform the Bridge of Tomorrow and the Boathouse (another building (still there awaiting "restoration," yes?)). I see the same photo on the same page twice, with different captions..ugh. This was all just from the Building History page and the article above. I say again, can't the QM aim a bit higher? To what standard should a museum that was once part of this very fair be held? "Future Perfect" is a heck of a name...

A date for this photograph. The buildings you are seeing here were mostly Fair Corporation buildings and as such among the first to go up. The others were yet to come. Not demolition - construction. The mural on the Communications building looks to not there at all, its entrance shows the unmodified smaller 1938/39 appearance. The Perisphere, the missing bit...that was the last bit put in. The Consumers building appears to have scaffolding on its eastern corner where one of its murals would eventually be. The radial two-tone pavement around the the Perisphere, the Great Compass and most all other pavement remained in place until well after the Perisphere was gone, but is not visible here. Same with the location of the Great Sundial - it retained its in-ground base until after the Perisphere was gone. Same with the water-spouting bulkhead and water panels along the Mall. The Science/Education building does not show the entrance added for 1940. The material piled near the end of the Helicline is where it should be for a pre-fair construction photograph. There is scaffolding going up on the base of the Trylon. Steel, then scaffold, then surfacing, then removal of scaffolding. A demolition photo would show a very large mess - this is ordered with clean grounds.

So, at this early hour, I am going with late summer 1938 or early fall. And I am not going to make any general statement about museums, World's Fair exhibits and accuracy!

Best wishes,
Eric


Thanks for all this information Eric! That inaccuracy about the Wizard of Oz hit me right away when I read this posting, but I had no idea about all the other mistakes in the article or the photo. I hate to tell you, but on the Facebook posting they touted the curator who put together this exhibit as a real "expert" on the Fair. Just when I was starting to hope that they might actually be devoting some serious effort to covering Fair history.....I don't understand why the NY museums don't call on outside experts such as you and some of the other folks who run this website for advice or information when putting together their exhibits instead of throwing them together on a wing and a prayer apparently. If any of you will be going to the exhibit, how about offering a tour to re-interpret the exhibit for those of us honestly trying to accurately learn more about this history? And BTW, you mentioned the boathouse...someone questioned that recently when the QMA posted on Facebook about their building being the only remaining structure from the '39 Fair--they said that "technically, that's true" because the boathouse is currently undergoing extensive renovation. That's their story and they're sticking to it. ;-)

But while you're all discussing QMA inaccuracies about what remains from the '39 Fair, maybe someone can help me with something I've come across while reading the Today at the Fair papers I recently purchased. Two short articles mention gifts to the Fair that were supposed to become permanent fixtures at Flushing Meadows, but I don't recall ever seeing or hearing mention of them in the Park today. Here are the articles I'm referring to:

Redwood Sapling Planted Today At the Fair

Was Flown Here By Airplane From West (Fri Aug 25)

A Sequoia Redwood sapling, flown to the World's Fair from the famed Redwood forests of California, will be planted on the Fair grounds today amid appropriate ceremonies beginning at 11:30 A.M.

The tree planting ceremony will be the focal point of the program arranged for the National Shade Tree Conference that is celebrating its day at the Fair.

Karl Dressel, president of the National Tree Conference, will preside at the ceremonies and will make a short dedicatory address. A member of the Fair corporation will also be on hand to accept the tree on behalf of the Fair corporation.

At the conclusion of the Fair the tree will remain in the city park which will take its place on Flushing Meadows.

Approximately 500 members of the organization sponsoring the tree planting will be at the Fair for the occasion and after the ceremonies they will make an informal tour of the Fair.


Dedication of Fountain Set for Sunday
Gift of Turkey To Remain After Fair Closes (Sunday, Oct 22)

The Turkish Fountain, a gift of the Turkish people to the City of New York, is to be dedicated at 4 o'clock on Sunday, October 29, on the occasion of the 17th anniversary of the Turkish Republic.

This fountain has been accepted by the Park Department to remain permanent after the Fair is over.


Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, Park Commissioner Robert Moses, E.F. Roosevelt, director of foreign government participation in the World's Fair, and Dr. Vedat Nedim Tor, president of the Turkish Commission, will speak.

The Turkish Fountain combines the finest features of the most famous fountains in Istanbul. Most of the parts, including hand-forged bronze grille work, were imported from Turkey.

#9 Jim

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 03:36 PM

Very interesting information about these "permanent" additions to the park. I have no clue about either one. I can speculate on that redwood sapling, however. If that thing was still there, I would suspect it would tower over the park by now.

#10 magikbilly

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 04:03 PM

Hi CathyS,

"Thanks for all this information Eric!'

You are very welcome. Thanks for posting this article.

"I hate to tell you, but on the Facebook posting they touted the curator who put together this exhibit as a real "expert" on the Fair."

Well, I am no expert. just an interested party who is losing interest/patience with this QMA. I must wonder who is doing what over there. Thanks though :)

"Just when I was starting to hope that they might actually be devoting some serious effort to covering Fair history..."

I am not nearly that optimistic anymore.

"I don't understand why the NY museums don't call on outside experts such as you..."

After my last interaction with them I'd rather not. My interest at the time, in providing really neat 1939/40 memorabilia at stupid low prices (I was making nothing) and passing the savings on to the museum visitor was not...a shared goal. They seemed to uh..."get lost"...on the "passing the savings on" part from what I saw of the prices placed over the ones they had me sit and write out. :angry:

"...when putting together their exhibits instead of throwing them together on a wing and a prayer apparently."

Yes, it does show, doesn't it :(

"And BTW, you mentioned the boathouse...someone questioned that recently when the QMA posted on Facebook about their building being the only remaining structure from the '39 Fair--they said that "technically, that's true" because the boathouse is currently undergoing extensive renovation. That's their story and they're sticking to it. ;-)"

Let them. They will be undergoing some "renovation" too I think. This will of course further alter what was once a beautiful 1939 NYWF structure. I expect the Boathouse, post renovation, will at least resemble the original structure. As for the Bridge of Tomorrow, it has been there for 70 years. A shame the museum, well - the staff really, has a selective memory (that is generous). After the Boathouse renovation and the QMA expansion, this neglected bridge will be indeed the last, most intact structure from 1939 New York World's Fair. It once carried folks from Gardens on Parade to the Town of Tomorrow. Shame. Loss.

I am aware of the two things you mentioned as gifts to the park. I am unable to say what became of those gifts. Perhaps this "expert curator" can shed some light on this. I'd bet on one of our own though ;)

Best wishes,
Eric

#11 Bill Cotter

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 05:09 PM

I've volunteered to help with a talk, tour, etc. in the past. No reply at all.

For what it's worth here's the fountain from the Turkey pavilion.

Posted Image

Yell if you spot it anywhere in NYC these days!

#12 magikbilly

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 05:31 PM

Hi Bill,

Same story here. I tried to GIVE THEM direct and genuine replacements for the damaged portions of the QMA building, tried to GIVE THEM framed unpublished unique photographs of the dedication of the Court of Peace with "bombs bursting in air" with parachutes of each of the nations involved - not even the courtesy of a reply. :o One could think they just don't care. Imagine that.

Best,
Eric

#13 CathyS

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Posted 01 April 2011 - 07:27 AM

Bill, a million thanks for this beautiful picture of the Turkish Fountain! What a wonderful piece that was, far more lovely than I was imagining. Now I really want to know what happened to it. I can't believe (at least I would like to hope) that they wouldn't have let that deteriorate and destroyed it. I will keep searching and will certainly let you know if I find anything out. I figured the Redwood tree must have either died or been bulldozed at some point, I don't think they moved it anywhere because it really would stand out towering over Queens by now. But it's sad how little regard was paid to these things.

#14 Bill Cotter

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Posted 01 April 2011 - 08:02 AM

Cathy, the guard at Stony Brook may have been arrogant, but the management seems quite reasonable from my discussions with them.

I imagine the NY winters did in the redwood. My wife picked up a seedling years ago at the LA County Fair and we now have a 30+ high redwood in our front yard. Quite a few friends tried to grow them as well but the trees died, so they are pretty delicate when young.

#15 worldsfairent

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Posted 01 April 2011 - 01:21 PM

I reached out to the Turkish Cultural Center of Queens to see if they have any idea about what might have happened to the Turkish fountain. If I hear back from them, I'll post the reply here.




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