In the Beginning, Moses...

...created Flushing Meadows Park. Robert Moses, that is.

One cannot begin to document the story of the building of the Fair without first a reference to Flushing Meadow Park and its creator, Robert Moses. The stories of the Fair, the Park and Robert Moses are so intertwined it is only appropriate to begin with Flushing Meadow, Moses' grand dream for the greatest of urban parks. And although he was not the originator of the idea for a World's Fair in New York in the mid-twentieth century, Robert Moses surely was the catalyst that brought it to fruition.

The Corona Dumps

The Saga of Flushing Meadows has been told in detail on other pages at nywf64.com and you are invited to read it. Briefly, the site of New York's World's Fairs was once a refuse dump in the Borough of Queens; the Corona Dumps by name. In 1936 this blighted area was chosen by then New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses to host the city's first World's Fair; the New York World's Fair of 1939/1940. Moses realized that the population of the city was shifting ever further east. He saw the reclamation of the Corona Dumps for the 1939 World's Fair as an opportunity to create a vast urban park in an area which would be closer to the population center of the metropolis.

More than 1200 acres of swamp land were reclaimed for the site of the World's Fair. Beneath this huge expanse of marshy land was laid miles and miles of gas, electric, water and sewer lines. On the surface, miles more of roadways, paths, trees and flower beds were created. The World's Fair would be temporary. The utilities, roadways and plantings were permanent. They, and the huge proceeds from the Fair, would provide the foundation for the site's restoration to a park after the Fair had ended.

The 1939/1940 New York World's Fair at Flushing Meadows Park

1939/1940 New York World's Fair

The 1939/1940 World's Fair was a popular success. It was a financial flop. There were no proceeds to complete Moses' grand urban park. And, despite some additional funding provided to enhance certain areas of Flushing Meadow when it played host to a youthful United Nations Headquarters in the mid 1940s, the park remained more of a wilderness area than a true urban park.

Then, in 1959, a group of men began to float an idea around City Hall that New York should again play host to the world with a new Fair. Twenty years had passed since the 1939 World's Fair and they felt that it would benefit their children, and all children, to have an opportunity to experience "The World of Tomorrow" and its wonders as they had two decades before at the 1939/1940 New York World's Fair. As the idea began to take hold and it became clear that a site would be needed to host a new Fair, Flushing Meadow Park was the obvious choice. It also became clear that it would require someone of extraordinary talent to undertake such an immense project as the building of a World's Fair.

Robert Moses was about to be provided with an opportunity to see his great park become a reality at last.

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