NYS Pavilion Placed on the NYS Register of Historic Places
New York State Pavilion, relic of the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, wins approval as landmark
BY Nicholas Hirshon
DAILY NEWS WRITER
Wednesday, September 16th 2009, 4:00 AM
HUDSON, N.Y. – The New York State Pavilion, a crumbling yet iconic relic of the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, won approval Tuesday as a state landmark.
The designation opens it to desperately needed rehab grants.
In what historians hailed as a major step toward saving a long-neglected symbol of Queens, the state Board for Historic Preservation voted unanimously to add the concrete-and-steel behemoth to the state Register of Historic Places.
The board also nominated the iconic structure in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park as a national landmark, citing how it “continues to convey the essence of the experience of visitors to the fair.”
Both state and federal designations would allow the city, which owns the pavilion and is studying its structural stability, to apply for grants to spruce it up.
Virginia Bartos of the state Historic Preservation Office urged the board to recognize the pavilion “in spite of its current condition.”
“A lot of these buildings [from the World's Fairs] are built to be temporary,” she said. “What we have here is a rare survivor.”
Famous after the fair for cameos in movies like “The Wiz” and “Men in Black,” the pavilion features an elliptical rotunda, three towers and the Queens Theatre in the Park, originally known as the Theaterama.
The drum-shaped theater was renovated in 1992-93 and again in 2008-09, but the rotunda and towers now display peeling paint and ubiquitous cracks.
The city Parks Department is now reviewing results of a study on whether the pavilion is architecturally sound. The Daily News filed a Freedom of Information request for the findings in July but has not yet received them.
A draft of the state’s nomination form for the national register argues the pavilion “clearly embodies” a key period in the career of its famed architect, Philip Johnson, “bringing together classical temple, Roman Coliseum and circus tent.”
It also says preservation experts from the University of Pennsylvania will study the pavilion this fall. Last year, university researchers helped restore tiles on a huge road map on the rotunda floor.
Greg Godfrey of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park World’s Fair Association heralded state landmark status as a way for the structure “to go from challenged to restoring our great history.”
Bartos said she received letters of support from several pavilion fans, including a producer of the TV show “CSI: NY.” She said she also got one opposition note, but didn’t identify its author.
Another site added Tuesday to the state register was the English Revival-style Church-in-the-Gardens, built in 1914, in Forest Hills Gardens.