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Who was the person credited with the concept of a world's fair?

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World's Fair
by E.L. Doctorow


This novel tells the story of Edgar Altshuler, a 9-year-old boy from the Bronx, and his adventures at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. On his first visit to the fair, Edgar is enthralled by industry's vision of the futuresafe, secure and prosperous cities, speedy and cheap transportation and modern invention to make life easier. On his second visit, he sees that the exhibits are constructed of gypsum whose paint is peeling and that the displays are really toys.
                                   
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Remnants of World's Fairs Gone By
by Bob Brooke

 

Of all the world’s fairs, except the first one in 1851, a few remnants remain. Some of these are spectacular, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Space Needle in Seattle, and the Unisphere in New York, the Atomium in Brussels. Other buildings from the fairs of the past have been repurposed. One such building is the Ohio House, now a small cozy café in Fairmont Park in Philadelphia, a forgotten remnant of the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition held in 1876.

Originally one of 24 small buildings housing state exhibits at that world’s fair, a few others of which were dismantled and shipped to far-flung places in the U.S. to be repurposed for other uses, it stands quietly among the shade trees across the road from Memorial Hall, the only major building left from that fair, now the home of the Please Touch Museum.

International expositions have produced some of the most innovative works of architecture over the past two centuries. Though the majority of these structures are temporary and are dismantled after a fair closes, landmark towers from several fairs are notable exceptions. By far the most famous of these is the Eiffel Tower, built for the Exposition Universelle, held in Paris in 1889.

For nearly 170 years, world’s fairs have captivated international audiences, showing off the technological, scientific, and cultural achievements of countries across the globe. The first widely recognized exposition was London’s 1851 Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, established by Prince Albert, for which Joseph Paxton designed the impressive Crystal Palace to house the exhibits. The cast-iron and glass structure was a marvel, and it set the precedent for future world’s fairs to showcase feats of architecture and engineering. Though the Crystal Palace burned down in 1936, and many other world’s fair structures have been dismantled over time, there are still a few that remain today.

World’s fairs exist to provide a glimpse into the future. They have showcased technological breakthroughs like the telephone introduced at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and the diesel engine that chugged along at the Paris fair in 1900, powered by peanut oil. Many of the gadgets they introduced have become part of everyday life.

Though fire destroyed London’s Crystal Palace from the first world's fair in 1936, the decades have been kinder to another 19th-century relic—the 1,063-foot-tall wrought-iron Eiffel Tower—designed by architect and engineer Gustave Eiffel’s company as the gateway arch to the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. A group of French artists, authors and architects called the arch “useless and monstrous” and predicted that it would be “a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack.” They had a point, but if you’ve been to the city, you’ve probably noticed that the arch, the Eiffel Tower, is not only still there but has become a symbol of the Paris, itself, the City of Light.

The Centennial Exposition's main building, Memorial Hall, still stands majestically in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. The space under it’s entrance now houses a scale model of the entire Exposition.



The Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago is one of that fair’s last remaining buildings. It now houses the Museum of Science and Industry. Though the majority of the fair’s buildings were designed as temporary structures, the Fair Committee built the Palace of Fine Arts more sturdily with brick covered in white plaster, and it became home to the Field Museum after the exposition. In the 1930s, as part of the building’s transition into the Museum of Science and Industry, the façade was re-cast in limestone to ensure its permanence.



The World's Congress Auxiliary Building from the 1893 Fair is now the home of the Art Institute of Chicago. A construction project by the University of Chicago unearthed the foundation of the first Ferris Wheel, which operated at the Exposition on the Midway. Relocated survivors include the Norway pavilion, a small house now at a museum in Wisconsin, and the Maine State Building, now at the Poland Springs Resort in Maine.

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park is the last major remnant of the California Midwinter International Exposition, held in San Francisco in 1894. The addition of large ornamental wooden gates and a pagoda from the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition brought in after the latter fair closed have made the Tea Garden a unique instance of a survivor that incorporates architectural features from two different fairs.

The Grand Palais and Petit Palais, remaining from the Univerelle Exposition of 1900 in Paris, now house art museums.

The New York City Building from the 1939's World Fair, reused for the 1964 World's Fair, now houses the Queens Art Museum, containing an exhibit of New York World’s Fair memorabilia.



The Atomium, a 165-billion-times-enlarged iron-crystal-shaped building, still stands at the exposition site of the Brussels World’s Fair, held in 1958,and is now a museum.

The Space Needle, the iconic theme building of the Century 21 Exposition, held in 1962, commonly known as the Seattle World's Fair, still stands as a symbol of Seattle and its chief landmark. The 605-foot-tall flying saucer–shaped tower, originally housing two restaurants and an observation deck. The Seattle Center Monorail, the other widely known "futuristic" feature of the fair, still operates daily. The US pavilion became the Pacific Science Center.

Many structures still stand from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, including the Unisphere and the Singer Bowl stadium, since converted into Louis Armstrong Stadium, part of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, site of the US Open. The New York Hall of Science, built for the fair, continues to operate as a science museum, similar to its original role. The Port Authority Heliport and Exhibit is now the Terrace on the Park event and catering venue.



The New York State Pavilion from the 1964-65 Fair stands derelict, with its observation towers most prominently featured in the 1997 film Men In Black. The Theaterama building remains in use by the Queens Theater. Although there are plans to restore the main Tent of Tomorrow building, nothing has been done as yet.



Among the structures still standing from Expo 67 in Montreal are Moshe Safdie's Habitat 67, a model for pre-fabricated urban housing design that’s still in use as a residence, the Jamaica Pavilion, the Tunisia Pavilion, the French Pavilion, now the Montreal Casino, and the “Montreal Biosphere.” American Architect Buckminster Fuller produced a 203-foot-high geodesic dome to serve as the U.S. Pavilion. While the acrylic shell that enclosed the pavilion burned down in 1976, the stree trusses remained, and today it’s part of the Biosphere Environment Museum.



San Antonio kept the Tower of the Americas from HemisFair68, as well as the Institute of Texan Cultures and the Convention Center.


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