For the first time since the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, the majestic fountains circling the Unisphere in Queens’ Flushing Meadows Park are streaming full blast. The stainless steel landmark has been spiffed up just prior to the start of the U.S. Open 2010, taking place just north of the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Park’s Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center.
In addition to the U.S. Open 2010 facilities, Flushing Meadows Park features numerous relics from the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, the Robert Moses-directed festival of mid-century architecture, industry, culture and entertainment in the Atomic Age. The Unisphere, now the unofficial symbol of Queens, was the focal point of the two-year extravaganza.
Built by the United States Steel Corporation, the Unisphere embodied the World’s Fair theme, “peace through understanding.” The design reflected Cold War aesthetics and America’s aspirations in space exploration in addition to global unity and cooperation.
Simultaneously, the colossal stainless steel structure illustrated US Steel’s decades-long dominance in American industry. Its reign began when J.P. Morgan and attorney Elbert H. Gary consolidated Andrew Carnegie’s Carnegie Steel Company, Gary’s Federal Steel Company and the National Steel Company in 1901. During World War II, US Steel boasted 340,000 employees and production that peaked in 1953 at 35 million tons. US Steel was in the perfect position to advertise its wealth at the 1964-1965 World’s Fair.
The fountains that ringed the Unisphere during the 1964-1965 World’s Fair have operated sporadically lately, usually during the U.S. Open. Water from the fountains’ pipes leaked into the nearby Queens Museum of Art (itself housed in the New York City Pavilion from the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, the only building left standing from the fair). The New York City Parks Department recently finished a $2 million makeover of the Unisphere that included fixing the pipes, repainting the robin’s-egg blue basin around the 140-foot-tall sculpture and resurfacing the concrete plaza around the fountains.
See the fountains shoot 20 feet into the air daily through Labor Day, after which time the Unisphere’s jets will be turned during matches at the U.S. Open 2010. The tournament kicks off August 30.
For more about the Unisphere and the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, check out the two-part video produced by US Steel in 1964.
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