A World's Fair Phantom

What the heck is a "World's Fair Phantom?" Mirriam-Webster defines a phantom as "something apparent to sense but with no substantial existence." The 1964-1965 New York World's Fair gave us more than a few phantoms to explore -- pavilions and exhibits that were apparent to sense but had no substantial existence. They failed to materialize for one reason or another - primarily due to a lack of planning or, more likely, a lack of funding; for exhibiting at the New York World's Fair was a very expensive proposition! It's fun and interesting to look back to see what exhibits we can sense without there being anything of substance to see. nywf64.com took a look at a number of these New York World's Fair Phantoms in our feature presentation Building the Fair. And now, thanks to Mike Kraus, we can expore in-depth one of the most interesting phantoms of the Fair - the Pavilion of France.

The Phantom Pavilion of France
Color Artist's Rendering

What makes the Pavilion of France different from most other Fair phantoms is that something tangible actually existed at one time. While many of the Fair's phantoms never advanced beyond the concept stage others, like the Pavilion of France and the World of Food, actually had ground broken, steel erected and exhibits prepared to be installed in them. The other tangible phantom, the Pavilion of Argentina, was fully completed yet Argentina never took occupancy of the building! France did eventually have a presence at the Fair and in our companion piece on French participation, nywf64.com takes a look at The Pavilion of Paris and French Industry, the privately sponsored pavilion that fulfilled some of the promise of the Pavilion of France but was no where near as ambitious or successful as the planners for the Pavilion of France had sought for their pavilion to be!

Why did the Pavilion of France disappear like a ghost into thin air between February 3rd and Labor Day of 1963? Bruce Nicholson in his book Hi Ho, Come to the Fair said that the government of France had no problem with a privately sponsored pavilion representing France as long as "it was made perfectly clear that it was in no way connected with the Government of France or the French people." France being a signatory to the charter of the Bureau of International Expositions, the World's Fair sanctioning body that was publicly boycotting the '64 Fair, and host of the headquarters of that organization in Paris, no doubt found this a political necessity. From that we can glean that government interference didn't bring about its doom. But perhaps French pride made potential exhibitors less than enthused about supporting a decidedly non-French French pavilion? It's obvious that International Expositions Corporation had undertaken a massive and very expensive project in the Pavilion of France. Perhaps the project was just too ambitious and costly and Anthony B. Golff found it impossible to find the financial backers or willing French exhibitors to make his project a reality. What we know for sure is that by June 19, 1963, International Expositions Corporation and Anthony B. Golff and his magnificent Pavilion of France were out and a new contract between the World's Fair Corpation and Exhibitions de France, Inc. had been signed with Mr. Jacques M. Fisher as Director General of The Pavilion of Paris and French Industry. That would now be the official name for French participation in the Fair. On Opening Day, 1964, the plot allotted to the Pavilion of France was simply the site of a vacant lot and it would remain so throughout the run of the Fair.

The site of the Pavilion of France at the New York World's Fair in 1964 and 1965 remained a vacant lot throughout the run of the Fair. It's image, however, lived on!

SOURCE: New York World's Fair Publicity Photograph presented courtesy Craig Bavaro collection

France as a Vacant Lot

The phantom Pavilion of France shares a particular distinction with only three other phantoms of the Fair. It's image, along with that of the World of Food, the Arch of the Americas and the World's Fair Assembly Hall, appears repeatedly on promotional brochures and souvenirs of the Fair before and throughout the 1964 and 1965 seasons of operation. Peter and Wendy, when playing their Official New York World's Fair Game, must've wondered why they didn't remember seeing the pyramid, rectangle and egg-shaped buildings that were shown on their playing board.

nywf64.com takes a look at some of the souvenirs featuring the Pavilion of France and the other well-known World's Fair Phantoms ...

World's Fair Game
Where the heck was that???
Did you play the World's Fair board game with your friends and family in the summer of 1965 after you got back from your trip to the Fair? You could spot three World's Fair Phantoms on the cover of Milton Bradley's Official New York World's Fair Game that you no doubt missed on your visit. Left is the Pavilion of France. Center is the Arch of the Americas. Right is the World's Fair Assembly Hall. Inside the box the playing board features a large image of the World of Food pavilion too! And there's phantom France again on a jigsaw puzzle from the Fair shown below:

 World's Fair Puzzle

World's Fair Brochure

World's Fair Brochure Cover


Planning a trip to the Fair???

Well if you're using the brochures you got in the mail from the people at the New York World's Fair and you're looking to explore any of these fantastic pavilions featured on artist W. D. Shaw's beautiful interpretation of the exposition you're going to need good walking shoes. You're going to have a though time finding (from left to right) the Pavilion of France, Arch of the Americas, World's Fair Assembly Hall and the World of Food!

The Flintstones saw them from the air in 1965 ...
there's Wilma pointing them out!
Did you?
Comic Book - Flintstones


Detail of Phantoms

Webmaster's note... Thank you, Mike Kraus, for providing the material for the nywf64.com. feature on the Pavilion of France - one of the Fair's most interesting phantoms! True story: Among the first collectibles I ever acquired of the '64 World's Fair was the Groundbreaking Brochure for the Pavilion of France. When I saw my first aerial view of the Fairgrounds, I got very frustrated trying to locate the pyramid, rectange and ellipsoid that were featured on the cover of my brochure. Had I only known you then Mike, you could have saved me some time!

In the early years of nywf64.com, Mike hosted a companion website called nywf64photos.com and some might remember that website and Mike's great photo collection. Mike donated his site to nywf64.com and you can expect to see his photos again on upcoming feature presentations and on updates to existing pavilion features. Look for the Mike Kraus Gallery when visiting the pavilion presentations here at nywf64.com.

Without the contributions of Mike, Craig Bavaro, Bill Cotter, Gary Holmes, Eric Paddon and so many others who've contributed to this website, the content would not be nearly as thorough or intersting. My thanks again to you all.

Bill Young
February, 2010