Sunday, October 07, 2007


Last Saturday we took the #7 train to Flushing, Queens. We were off to visit the Panorama of the City of New York built for the 1964 World's Fair (not just a County Fair, not just a State Fair - but a World's Fair!). The Panorama is housed in a building in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

If Flushing Meadows Park sounds familiar it might be because it is also the home of Shea Stadium (The Mets) and Arthur Ashe Stadium (U.S. Open).

It was about a 15 minute walk from the train station to the museum building - along the way we walked through this promenade. When the leaves change colors it must be stunning.

The Unisphere was also built for the 1964 World's Fair.

But the Panorama was what we wanted to see.

Here are some details on the Panorama, kindly provided from the Queens Museum website:

The Panorama of the City of New York is the jewel in the crown of the collection of the Queens Museum of Art. Built by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair, in part as a celebration of the City’s municipal infrastructure, this 9,335 square foot architectural model includes every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs; that is a total of 895,000 individual structures.

The Panorama was built by a team of 100 people working for the great architectural model makers Raymond Lester Associates in the three years before the opening of the 1964 World’s Fair. In planning the model, Lester Associates referred to aerial photographs, insurance maps, and a range of other City material; the Panorama had to be accurate, indeed the initial contract demanded less than one percent margin of error between reality and the model.

The Panorama was one of the most successful attractions at the ’64 Fair with a daily average of 1,400 people taking advantage of its 9 minute simulated helicopter ride around the City. After the Fair the Panorama remained open to the public, its originally planned use as an urban planning tool seemingly forgotten.

Until 1970 all of the changes in the City were accurately recreated in the model by Lester’s team. After 1970 very few changes were made until 1992, when again Lester Associates changed over 60,000 structures to bring it up-to-date.

The model is truly stunning. It is surprising to see how much of the City of New York is not Manhattan.

In this photo I am standing at the far Eastern edge of Brooklyn, you can pretty clearly see Lower Manhattan in the upper left corner.

The green spaces represent parks, the blue is water, and the clusters of red buildings are housing projects.

Here, in the lower right side of the photo, you can see the Verranzano Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island. Michael is standing across from me in the upper center of the shot. Staten Island is huge and doesn't have very many clusters of red buildings.

Pictured below is my most visited place in Queens, the JFK International Airport. The famous TWA Terminal is the crescent shaped building in the lower right hand section of the photo.

And just for some perspective, JFK is in the lower section of this photo and Manhattan is in the upper section - if you look carefully you can make out the strip of green that represents Central Park in the upper right side of the picture.

And yes, we looked for and found our building. It was kind of obscured by some larger buildings on the corner - but it wasn't hard to find our neighborhood.

The rest of the Queens Museum offered a collection of artifacts from the 1964 World's Fair. The feeling reminded me of the initial version of Tomrrowland at Disneyland.

In fact Walt Disney used the fair to design and perfect audio-animatronics. He and the WED Engineering team created four rides for the World's Fair (you might recognize some of these):

-The Magic Skyway

-Carousel of Progress

-Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln


-It's a Small World

The exhibit was definitely worth the ride to Queens and as an added bonus, admission is a wallet friendly $5.