Jump to content
Bill Cotter

Here's a VERY early construction shot of the Fair

Recommended Posts

beam-test.jpg

The Fair Corporation was setting standards for the materials that could be used in the buildings and this was a test of how much weight the beams could hold without deforming.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's an amazing photo, Bill, and it's in color.  How did you know the background of this photograph?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Those photos must be quite rare.   They make me wonder a bit about those enormous wooden pilings that were used to support the Perisphere in 1939.  I cannot recall if they were huge Douglas Fir trunks or some other wood, but wood they were and they were pounded into Flushing Meadow to support the 1939 Theme Center.

 Keeping in mind that the 1939 Theme Center was only meant to last for a year or two, and using wooden support pilings had to be the lest expensive way to go, they were tested for viability prior to the construction of the Unisphere  (in 1962 or 1963) for the second Fair and found to be in excellent shape and in Mr. Moses eternal quest to keep costs low, the pilings 

They were deemed appropriate to support a fifteen story stainless steel globe .

But here's the thing.  They had been in that wet soil for twenty-five years at that point.  Now they have been in that soil for over seventy five years (almost eighty) and supporting that gigantic Unisphere for over fifty years.  How viable would they be today?  At some point, no matter what, wooden pilings in damp Northeastern soil are going to rot no matter how much creosote was slapped onto them in 1938.  

And if they have finally begun to decay, what becomes of the Unisphere?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My understanding is that wood pilings are extremely durable if submerged in fresh water (the portion below the water table) - like, hundreds of years. A brief online search seems to confirm this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wayne, I typed in the phrase "wooden pilings supporting the Unisphere" and it actually took me to a September 2001 World's Fair Community forum on this very topic.  Hoodlock began the discussion by asking if we ever wondered why the Unisphere was left in place but the massive lighting towers were removed.  He tells us that engineers determined, during Fair demolition, that the wooden pilings supporting those towers were already rotting and the towers had to be removed.  

The discussion turned to wooden pilings supporting the NYS Pavilion.  The lighting towers and NYS pavilion pilings had to have been pounded into the ground in 1962 or 1963 and some were no longer viable by early 1966 according to comments on that particular discussion thread.

I know virtually nothing about such engineering but wooden pilings suggest, I think, the structure they would support would be temporary as was the 1939 Perisphere.  Those 1938 engineers had no way of knowing the pilings would be called upon to support another theme structure 25 years later.  They were happy they would support the 1939 Theme Center for at least one year.

One poster, Ruthless, who was working for an engineering consulting firm in 2001, offered engineering expertise and compared Flushing Meadow Park to the Marina District site of the 1915 San Francisco fair.  Both were built on reclaimed ground created with tons of landfill.  Ruthless states:  "both [fairs] were built atop unconsolidated rubble in marshy conditions."  As a result, Ruthless states there are higher levels of oxygen in that debris and ash filled soil.  That leads to instability and decay.

I wonder why, believing the Unipshere would be permanent, engineers for the second fair relied on 25 year old wooden pilings rather than adding something more substantial.  You may be absolutely correct.  But what went wrong with the pilings supporting the lighting towers?  

Jim

PS:  It's strange to consider today, but that entire 2001 exchange of ideas on those wooden pilings was recorded on September 10, 2001, twenty-four hours before the attacks on the World trade Center.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Florida Pavilion dug up the wooden pilings from the '39 Florida Pavilion (they built on the exact same site), stacked and inspected them, and reused those that passed inspection.  But they were re-driven into the ground in a pattern to support the new pavilion design.

We have photos of the extraction & reuse of those Florida Pavilion pilings.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×