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Randy Treadway

Then and Now - Today's History / Geography lesson

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Certain spots in World's Fair exposition grounds tend to make history multiple times over the years. This is an example.

Here we see the Pont de l'Alma bridge at the 1937 Paris Exposition Internationale de Arts et Techniques.

On the left is one of the pavilions. In the foreground is the Passarelle, a pedestrian footbridge because the bridge itself was narrow and full of traffic. Where have we heard of a Passarelle before?

On the other side of the bridge are two large towers. These were erected at several points around the Exposition grounds (which spanned both sides of the Seine), to indicate major gates of entry to the exposition. (Both New York World's Fairs had similar towers at major gates). We also see one of the ubiquitous water taxis which ferried World's Fair visitors from pavilion to pavilion. They also had 'trains' pulled by tugs, similar to American world's fairs, to haul passengers along boulevards inside the exposition grounds (a French glide-a-ride, if you will).

135_Passerelle_et_Porte_de_lAlma.jpg

Here we see the approach to the bridge from the north side of the river. The bridge was elevated a considerable height over the river, so there had to be approach ramps on both sides. On this north side the approach ramp interfered with traffic on a cross-street, so they simply made the cross-street an underpass.

168_Porte_de_la_Place_de_lAlma.jpg

Looking from the other side of the underpass, we see the elevated approach ramp from the northeast, and the underpass for automobile traffic.

71_Porte_de_la_Place_de_lAlma_bw.jpg

Flash forward to the 1960's. An engineering study revealed that the Pont de l'Alma bridge foundations were sinking into the mud of the Seine, and cracks were appearing. Furthermore the bridge was far too narrow for modern Parisian traffic and needed to be considerably wider. It was closed for the entire year 1970, torn out, and a new bridge built. The Passarelle was also removed; the new bridge including pedestrian sidewalks.

Engineers decided that the new bridge did not need to be so high. They made it level with surrounding streets, so there was no need for approach ramps. However, on the north end this posed a problem. That underpass was in heavy use by this time. To make it an 'intersection' would be devastating to traffic flow. They decided to LOWER the underpass, and make it a short tunnel.

It now looks like this

TunnelPlaceAlmaSmall.jpg

And what is so famous about this spot? Ten years ago, a certain celebrity lost her life in this tunnel. Princess Diana. :blink: Diana's car was headed westbound in the right lanes in this picture, much like the last underpass picture above in 1937.

And is there any kind of marker or monument up there where the World's Fair gate towers were located in 1937? (albeit about 10 meters lower, since the towers were installed on top of an elevated bridge approach that is no longer there). In 1986 they installed an exact replica of the remodeled torch that the American National Park Service installed on the Statue of Liberty, on the very spot where the 1937 World's fair gate towers were located. Beginning in 1997, Diana mourners turned it into a makeshift shrine, mounting pictures of her all around the base (which French authorities periodically clean up, but they always reappear).

454px-Flame_of_Liberty.jpg

How's that?- we found ways to tie the 1937 World's Fair, to the New York World's Fairs, to Princess Diana, and to the Statue of Liberty, all in one short lesson.

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Very, very cool post, Randy. I really need to learn more about the 37 Expo-- everything I've seen makes it look like such an interesting (and in many ways inspirational) precursor to the 39/40 NYWF.

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I am always interested in the massive Soviet and Nazi pavilions which squared off opposite each other at the Paris Exposition in 1937. Not only was this fair a precursor to NY in 1939 (especially its art deco style) but it was a warning about the coming disaster of World War Two.

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Jim, you'll be interested in this photo published by the official German photographer, Hoffmann.

The luminaires on the right have been blurred as if they're 'glowing', which just happens to completely obliterate the USSR Pavilion.

Hoffmann was a superb photographer (see the lit up German Pavilion on the left)- he would never have published a blurred or marred photo, except for political reasons like this.

P51_Le_Pavillon_Allemand.jpg

All other Hoffmann photos which might have included the USSR Pavilion were simply cropped, instead of "blurred". Except for one.

P12_distant_view_of_fairgrounds.jpg

P16_Vue_Totale.jpg

P52_exterior_view.jpg

Of all the large number of Hoffmann photos of the '37 World's Fair that got published, including in commemorative book form, this is the only photo that made it through final edit which included the USSR Pavilion in the field of view.

You'll note that the German Pavilion was a bit higher than the USSR Pavilion. (and a small tilt to the right of the camera exagerrated it even more

The story goes that the Germans stole the Russian architectural plans and upon seeing them, German architect Albert Speer added another ten or twenty meters onto the height of the German Pavilion to make sure it 'looked down' on the Russians. The roof up there with the German eagle included an observation deck.

P36_Vue_Generale.jpg

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1104.jpg

Right you are, Jim-- and unlike our very large but still missing friend Joe The Worker who stood atop the Soviet Pavilion at the 39 NYWF-- the Paris 37 Soviet Pavilion's equally massive sculpture still stands in Russia today.

>
Mukhina.jpg

Although as these photos demonstrate-- it has recently been dismantled for restoration...

post-54-1206305317_thumb.jpgStatueRestoration.jpg[/attachment:e1ebd]

fingers.jpg[/attachment:e1ebd]

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Randy, those are outstanding photographs and thank you very much for posting them. They capture the battle of ideologies on the eve of the War. Speer did not have the chance to fully complete a great deal of what the Nazi government wanted and perhaps his two most significant structures, the 1937 German Pavilion in Paris and the Reich Chancellery in Berlin were both destroyed. In any event, these are very telling photographs. Is it me, or is there a change in the current view of the Soviet statue? In the pavilion photograph, the woman appears to be uncovered and in the current image, she looks covered. I cannot tell this for certain.

It is also interesting how the Soviets always dismanteled their pavilions and took them home. I know we have determined the 1967 Montreal pavilion is now in Moscow. Have we determined the location of their 1939 pavilion as well?

Thank you again for posting these images. They tell a powerful story.

Jim

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In the pavilion photograph, the woman appears to be uncovered and in the current image, she looks covered.

She's covered in both, Jim. It's the same statue, then and now.

Have we determined the location of their 1939 pavilion as well?

No. As I referenced in my post-- we've never found any indication of the 39 Soviet Pavilion's whereabouts (although it's possible some of the building's materials wound up being reused here at the All Russian Exhibition Centre: [url:9f223]http://www.vvcentre.ru/eng/about_us/excursion/[/url:9f223])-- and even more frustratingly, Joe the (very big!) Worker appears to have simply vanished.

ussrfullviewbw.jpg

-Trey

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I was afraid that my 54 year old eyes might not be correctly working today! Thanks, Trey.

And I am very surprised that Big Joe disappeared as well. However, when that pavilion and the

statue were removed from NYC the War had begun and it is possible that the materials went

toward the war effort in the Soviet Union.

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How tall was the tower at the Soviet Pavilion?(ground level up to the top of Joe's star)

The Wurts book says it was the tallest structure at the Fair after the Trylon, but perhaps Wurts was forgetting about the Parachute Jump? I can't see that tower being taller than the parachute jump.

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The red marble tower stood 200 feet tall, toped with a 79 foot tall statue (Ivan Macy )

Here is Joe compared to our lady in the harbor, Miss Liberty.post-54-1206305317_thumb.jpguntitled.jpg[/attachment:f4ab2]

The Soviet tower and statue was taller than the Parachute Jump for a short time, until a huge flagpole was placed on top of the 262 foot-tall ride, making it taller.

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HOLY COW!! It doesn't look nearly that big in the Wurts picture. I'm going to check the Medicus films and see if there is footage of people walking by it. Thanks for the info!

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It is correct that their was something of an uproar about the fact that Big Joe hoisting his Soviet star was the tallest point on

the 1939 fairgrounds. That, evidently, was of great concern to many. The result was that a flagpole with a US flag was placed on the Parachute Jump.

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I was afraid that my 54 year old eyes might not be correctly working today! Thanks, Trey.

And I am very surprised that Big Joe disappeared as well. However, when that pavilion and the

statue were removed from NYC the War had begun and it is possible that the materials went

toward the war effort in the Soviet Union.

Remember the fate of the Trylon and Perisphere.

These are amazing photos of a little seen fair. It is quite a shame that it is not a publicised as some other fairs are -I'm sure this would have turned heads!!

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In Albert Speer's best selling book "Inside the Third Reich - Memoirs by Albert Speer, 1970, The Macmillan Company" on page 81, Speer tells of his visit to Paris to look over the 1937 Paris World's Fair construction sites prior to the design and building of the German pavilion, "while looking over the site in Paris, I by chance stumbled into a room containing the secret sketch of the Soviet pavilion. A sculptured pair of figures thirty-three feet tall, on a high platform, were striding triumphantly toward the German pavilion. I therefore designed a cubic mass, also elevated on stout pillars, which seemed to be checking the onslaught, while from the cornice of my tower an eagle with swastika in its claws looked down on the Russian sculptures. I received a gold medal for the building; so did my Soviet colleague." These are Speer's own words describing how he "by chance stumbled" upon the Russian pavilion plans and counterted with his own design. Accurate? or not, an interesting story.

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