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Bill Cotter

That pesky gypsum

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The Trylon looks a bit worse for wear in this shot from 1939. The gypsum surface proved to be problematical throughout both years of the Fair. From an original negative just restored.

weathered-trylon.jpg

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Although both the Trylon and Perisphere are looking less than pristine here, their overall purpose is clearly evident in this photograph. Look at the geometry and the sheer size of the Theme Center in this scene.  The photo reminds us that the structures really were quite spectacular. The black and white is wonderful. 

 

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Indeed, Jim. They are miraculous. In winter 39/40, just about the entire Trylon was stripped clean and resurfaced top to bottom.

 

1940 nywfT&P©EKL2014.jpg

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I sat there in front of the Unisphere once w Don Cavolli and he remarked, Imagine what the T and P was like, several times (was it 4X?) the size. I had never thought of that before. In 1939 it must’ve been massive well off the scale of anyone’s frame of reference. Like red giant stars compared to the sun. 

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The comparison I usually make is the Observation Bridge in 1939 - it is just about 1/2 as tall as the entire Unisphere. More to the point, the QE Lightning Bolt, and Westinghouse Singing Tower of Light - all taller than this Unisphere. The Parachute jump was over 100 feet taller!

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Very interesting observations!  Eric.  I never knew that much work was done on the Trylon between seasons.  But nobody had really thought it might be needed for two years.  While gypsum board is just a bit more durable than cardboard, I suppose, the Theme Center held up fairly well.  It survived the Hurricane of 1938 (The Long Island Express).  That was in September.  Winds on western Long Island were measured at 100 mph and on the top of the Empire State Building at over 120 mph.

Eric, how much of the theme center was completed by then?

 I recall that the Perisphere was just over 15 stories tall and the Unisphere is 13 stories tall.  The  Trylon was 700 feet tall.  That's all in keeping with the desire of exposition planners, for decades, to build towers.  New York built tall things for 1939 but nothing permanent but building for height in 1964 wasn't a priority.

One more tall structure for 1939--the tower and Joe the Worker on the USSR pavilion.  That Perisphere shot, with the ethereal blue lighting against a black night sky, is just wonderful.  That's what a great fair looks like.

 

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Hi Jim,

Oct '38 - I have some photographs of severe damage to the coming Fair. Trees stuck in bridges sideways. Tremendous pile drivers toppled. The T&P was steel then (as its designers preferred) - surfacing was not literally completed until January or February of 1939. The Perisphere did suffer some as in 39/40 - just not well photographed. Perishpere was 180' and Trylon 610" in the end. Yes, 1939 was tall and tight - the 1964/65 was very different and lacking the sheer grandeur you mention in the last photograph - in my opnion.

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