Groundbreaking & Construction


Signals start of work at site on $17 million Federal Exhibit

President Kennedy, as he spoke at groundbreaking ceremonies for the U.S. Pavilion at the New York World's Fair. Seated behind him are Robert Moses, president of the Fair, and New York City's Mayor, Robert F. Wagner.
Kennedy at Groundbreaking

Last Friday, December 14th, the Fair was host to President John F. Kennedy who addressed a large crowd before signaling the start of construction for the United States Pavilion. Participating in the official ceremonies with the President, who had been invited to the Fair by Thomas J. Deegan, chairman of the executive committee, were Robert Moses, president of the Fair, Mayor Robert F. Wagner and Norman K. Winston, United States Commissioner for the Federal exhibit.

Arriving shortly before 1:00 p.m. at Idlewild Airport, the President was greeted by Mayor Wagner. The official party, including 30 members of the White House press, then proceeded to the Fair's Administration Building.

After a short briefing on World's Fair progress by General William Whipple, Jr., Fair chief engineer, in the model room with a press pool in attendance, the group moved directly to the 196,394 sq. ft. United States Pavilion site in the Federal and States Area. Here other members of the press, the executive committee and visiting public had gathered for the event.

Mr. Winston presided over a fifteen-minute ceremony during which he described the Federal Pavilion as "an expression of the American spirit." Mayor Wagner said the groundbreaking for the United States exhibit "marked another milestone on the way to the realization of what was expected to be one of the greatest world expositions ever held."

The President expressed appreciation to Robert Moses, Mayor Wagner and all those who are working on the Fair to make it a success. Describing the theme as "most appropriate," the President said he thought the 646-acre Fair would show visitors from abroad, "what kind of people we are, what kind of country we have and what the land is like."

Mr. Moses in thanking the President said, "We are elated, Mr. President, that you have come personally to inaugurate the Federal exhibit of the World's Fair, and thus again to demonstrate dramatically your wholehearted support of this olympics of progress." Mr. Moses presented the President with the first gold commemorative medallion.

The event was climaxed by President Kennedy as he signaled the first bulldozer into action.

The briefing in the model room and the on-site ceremony were held to a little more than a half-hour because of the President's heavy schedule.

Renderings and a description of the $17,000,000 United States Pavilion will be released at a later date. Charles Luckman Associates of New York are architects for the project. Del Webb, West Coast builder, will be in charge of construction.

Source: FAIR NEWS, Vol. 1, No. 7, December 20, 1962

Groundbreaking Brochure Cover


COMMISSIONER NORMAN K. WINSTON [United States Commissioner for the New York World's Fair]: Mr. President, Mr. Mayor, Mr. Moses, ladies and gentlemen. This is an important day for the American people. We are erecting here more than a building, more than an exhibition. The Federal Pavilion will be an expression of the American spirit. It will illustrate the basic character that has enabled our people to meet past challenges. And under the dynamic leadership of President Kennedy, it ensures our meeting these problems which face us now.

As United States Commissioner, let me add that I have a deep appreciation of our mission here. We are certain that the monumental structure that is to be raised on this site and the exhibits it will contain will provide an unforgettable experience

for millions of people from all over the world.  We hope and expect that the pavilion will effectively and dramatically portray America's achievements.

The keystone in this gigantic enterprise is himself a symbol of a half-century of patient and constructive public service. The president of the World's Fair -- the Honorable Robert Moses.

ROBERT MOSES: We are delighted, Mr. President, that you have come personally to inaugurate the central exhibit of the World's Fair. And thus again to demonstrate dramatically your wholehearted support of this Olympics of Progress and to help us celebrate the 300th anniversary of a great city which has so long been a haven of hope and a bastion of freedom to the adventurous and oppressed of every land.

We are in the midst of giant preparations, which to a trained eye, represent much more than volcanic disturbance of the landscape and rude interference with travel. Grover Whalen found long ago that it takes a certain amount of chaos to make a Fair. Shills as well as shovels are needed, and I speak for the shovelers.

U.S. Commissioner Norman K. Winston introduces President Kennedy as New York World's Fair President Robert Moses and members of the Fair's executive committee look on.
Winston introduces Kennedy

The breaking of ground for this pavilion is no childish prank. It marks the rising crescendo of construction and the beginning of order and harmony. Those who do the building are neither phrasemakers nor amateurs. We have roamed these United States and literally combed the globe for pavilions and exhibits which will reflect the achievements of all men in industry, culture, the arts and harmless entertainment. We confidently expect more than seventy million visitors to an unforgettable pageant.

We want you to come again in 1964 to open this exposition, further emphasizing your leadership in world affairs, and your confidence in peaceful assembly and healthy rivalry among the nations. Your presence here today heartens all of us, toughens our hides, and speeds our efforts to a dramatic conclusion.

May I, in conclusion, present to you this gold medallion from the directors of the Fair.

COMMISSIONER WINSTON: The next speaker, so well and favorably known to you all, is the chief executive of the City of New York. The Honorable Robert F. Wagner.

ROBERT WAGNER: Mr. President, Mr. Winston, Mr. Moses, ladies and gentlemen. Today we mark another milestone on the way to the realization of the

promise of the World's Fair. As new York City is the greatest city in the world, we fondly hope and expect that this will be the greatest World's Fair ever to be held any place, under any flag.

We of New York City are going to do all we can to help make it so, and I know that Bob Moses and his great team are dedicated to making it so. Today we dedicate the Federal pavilion, the House of America at this World's Fair. We are breaking ground for one of the most meaningful of all the exhibits which will be featured at this Fair. It is estimated that more than seventy million people will pass by here. I trust and hope that all of those seventy million will visit the Federal Pavilion. We may hope that of those millions, those from abroad will be able through this pavilion to understand America better, and that those from America will be enabled to understand their own country better.

This Fair will be memorable in the history of this country. For many people it will doubtless be the best remember feature of the seventh decade of this century. 1964 will be the 300th anniversary of the yielding of the city of New Amsterdam to the besieging forces of the British Duke of York, and the consequent naming of the City of New York. In 1964 the World's Fair will make this 300th anniversary and this Federal Pavilion will illuminate the

Attending the briefing session on arterial highway and exhibitor construction progress are Norman K. Winsston, U.S. Commissioner for the Federal Pavilion, Mayor Robert F. Wagner, President Kennedy, a member of the Presidential party, and Fair vice president William Berns. General William Whipple, Jr., chief engineer, briefed the President around a scale model of the Fairgrounds which shows new highways and exhibit buildings as they will look when the New York World's Fair opens on Wednesday, April 22, 1964.
Kennedy views Fair's Model

Source: Fair Corporation Commemorative Groundbreaking Brochure

road that America traveled from its beginnings to its present greatness.

We are proud indeed to have with us on this occasion the great President of the United States. He honors us and honors this Fair by joining with us on this occasion. We salute him today, as the World's Fair will salute him in 1964. We of New York City welcome you and through you, Mr. President, we welcome the Federal exhibit to the World's Fairgrounds. We hope that you will bring us luck -- the luck of the Kennedys and of the United States of America. Thank you.

COMMISSIONER WINSTON: Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.

PRESIDENT KENNEDY: Mr. Mayor, Mr. Winston, Mr. Moses, Mr. Screvane, gentlemen -- I want to express my great appreciation to all of those of you who have been connected with this Fair. Mr. Moses, who has been working so hard to make it a reality; Mr. Winston, who has been working on the American exhibit; the Mayor, who has given it his close sponsorship since it began, and

all of you, particularly those of you who are building it.

This is going to be a chance for us in 1964 to show seventy million visitors -- not only our countrymen here in the United States, but people from all over the world -- what kind of a people we are. What kind of a country we have. What our people are like, and what we have done with our people. And what has gone in the past, and what is coming in the future.

That is what a world's fair should be about and the theme of this World's Fair -- Peace through Understanding -- is most appropriate in these years of the 60's. I want the people of the world to visit this Fair and all the various exhibits of our American industrial companies and the foreign companies, who are most welcome, and to come to the American exhibit -- the exhibit of the United States -- and see what we have accomplished through a system of freedom.

So we begin today, with this ceremony. We'll begin again in April of 1964. And we'll show what we have done in the past, and even more important -- what America is going to be in the future. Thank you.

That boyish Kennedy grin


Steel framework Ground for the massive Federal Pavilion was broken a scant 16 months prior to the opening of the Fair. The Fair's Progress Report #8, issued one year prior to opening, reported that "pile drivers ... started on the 2300 piles required for the Federal Building." Needless to say, construction had to proceeded rapidly to make the Fair's opening! This photo (left) from the summer of 1963 shows the steel framework nearly complete.
This high altitude aerial shot (right), taken about the same time, shows the pavilion's construction in the summer of 1963. Both this photo and the photo above appeared in the Fair's Progress Report #9, (September 26, 1963). Aerial view of Construction 
Federal Pavilion Fall 1963  A photo (left), from Fair News (Vol. 2, No. 11, December 1963), shows the construction of the Federal Pavilion as it would have appeared in the late fall of 1963. By this time, the steel framework was complete and the building enclosed. A aerial view of construction (below), taken in early 1964, shows a Fairgrounds covered in snow. The vari-colored fiberglass panels have not yet been installed on the exterior of the pavilion.
 Winter before opening


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