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Randy Treadway

Hall of Presidents - United States Pavilion

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Definitely a rare shot of the U.S. Pavilion interior. Also makes you wonder how this building was ever considered "temporary."

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After seeing those demolition photos, the building really did seem to be temporary. The outer walls were not much more than fiberglass hung on a steel frame. Without all of the requirements needed for a building to survive a New York winter (insulation for starters) it had a brief shelf life. I wonder if a structure such as this even had climate control. I mean, did it have a central heating system or air conditioning? It must have had something to protect the artifacts from temperature changes and humidity.

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Several years ago in looking at aerial photos, we spotted big air conditioning units recessed into the roof.

Fiberglass outer shell hung on the outside of the load-bearing steel frame; sheetrock hung on the inside of the steel frame.

There was a report several years ago from somebody that they got into the building in the 70's when it was badly vandalized, and they said the sheetrock had been punched through in several places, and they could step through a hole in it to a 'walk space' where they could look right at the fiberglass panels, which were translucent. So that report implied that there was no insulation between the sheetrock and fiberglass panels. But if it was a big space enough between the layers to walk, something like a catwalk, it would have been VERY easy for workers to have come back later and put some insulation in there to reduce heating bills for winter use. In the studies for possible use as a college, it wouldn't surprise me at all if there was a section that evaluated exactly that and estimated the cost to do so.

In photos from the 70's I don't see evidence of the fiberglass panels suffering winter freeze cracking or anything, although I'll bet they would need to be replaced every 25 years or so from radiation effects causing brittleness, which I think was what happened to the Kelwall roof at the New York State Pavilion.

In any event, having lived much of my life in more southern latitudes, I guess I'm more used to buildings with outer walls which are *not* load bearing (pretty much banned by building codes anyway in earthquake susceptable zones).

One other possibility for a thermal barrier is to make the area in between a big 'air pocket'. This would mean sealing the backside of the fiberglass panels and the backside of the sheetrock, both of which might be done with heavy duty moisture proof plastic like Bisqueen (or Visqueen, however it's spelled). I don't think it would have been a difficult engineering challenge.

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Randy, it was me who visited the pavilion in the late 70's before it was demolished. There were huge heating and air conditioning units on the roof of the building. They were installed under the roof line in a "well" that was accessible from inside the building. I remember that my grandfather (who drove us to the park from Long Island) figured out how to get into this area while my friend and I managed to get up onto the roof. While we were up there we heard a bull horn in the distance. Thinking it was the police surrounding the building to nab us trespassers, we cautiously peered over each side of the building for the cops. When we saw no one, boy did we heave a big sigh of relief. It later turned out that the bull horn was from an event being held elsewhere in the park. But by that time my grandfather had had enough of creeping around a very dark and dangerous building (from all the vandalism). As to the outer walls, there were indeed a few holes in them where you could peek your head through and see the translucent panels that were by that time starting to show their age. The space between the panels and outer walls wasn't very wide if I recall correctly, but it did still contain all of the lighting fixtures that lit the panels from behind during the fair. By that time though, most of them had been smashed to smithereens by vandals. If my memory serves me right, the outer walls were made of something more durable than Sheetrock. I would imagine this was to make the building watertight, especially during the interim winter period between the fair seasons. As to the interior of the building, it was pretty well destroyed by that time. The area where the ride was during the fair was just a big empty cavern of a space, since the ride machinery and screens had been removed right after the fair closed. The area in your picture was totally destroyed. The Sheetrock walls had been punched through and spray painted in many areas. The floor was littered with all kinds of debris and the lighting fixtures were dangling from their mounts in the ceiling. It looked like vagrants and junkies were using this area of the building, although lucky for us we saw no one inside the building while we were exploring it. I remember picking up some chalk letters that someone had scraped off the wall. But unfortunately those and a couple of the fiberglass "United States" letters from one of the outside walls of the building that I retrieved on our way out were thrown away by my parents when they sold their home and retired (which was my fault for not retrieving them in time). While it was very exciting for this teenager to be able to go inside this very tangible relic of the fair, I also recall how sad it was to see such a great building being neglected and destroyed by vandals.

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Is it just wishful thinking to declare that, "Of course the building could have been saved"?

I wish that Robert Moses had made allowances of some kind. If Moses refused to turn the building over to the city, would this have created artifical value in the property? If he required future tenants to pay rent or a fee for using the building, would this also have had the effect of creating value? In all of New York City, are you telling me that no one could come up with a plan to use the building for some purpose?

I wonder if it could have been used for a catering hall, similar to Terrace on the Park? Ideally a museum would have been perfect, or a library branch. What else?

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Unfortunately, the city was broke in the '70's to the point of bankruptcy and laying off city workers. NYC could have not done anything with the U.S. Pavilion even if they had really wanted to. And the economic situation here was bleak such that even if the city had just offered ownership of the building and land lease for nothing, here, just take it off our hands please, I very much doubt there would have been any takers. I look at the demolition of the U.S. Pavilion as an unavoidable tragedy.

It is a much different story with the Aquacade in '98, a completely avoidable act of municipal vandalism and with the NYSP today, an act of contempt.

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You have to realize that once the park was turned back over to the Parks Department in June of 1967, Moses had no say as to what the city did with the building. That being said, it was left to the political whims of the city government and no one ever really made a serious effort to re-purpose the building before the vandals destroyed it beyond salvage. By the late 70's and after the financial crisis, even if there was a will to do anything there was no money to restore the building. If I recall correctly, the city somehow convinced the federal government to pay for the demolition and so its fate was sealed.

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I hear what you are saying, and I have no choice but to face facts, because I know what you are saying is true.
Still, perhaps the building could have been a New York State office building (just another branch listed here: http://ogs.ny.gov/bu/ba/directory.asp), or perhaps a Federal office building?
(I know this topic is an exercise in futility, and therefore a bit depressing, so I do not expect a reply…forgive me for bringing it up).

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