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Long-Shuttered N.Y. State Pavilion In Queens To Reopen For 3 Hours Next Month

New York State Pavilion from the 1964-1965 World's Fair (credit: Matthew Silva)

New York State Pavilion from the 1964-1965 World’s Fair (credit: Matthew Silva)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The long-shuttered New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park will open to the public for three hours next month, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 World’s Fair.

The New York State Pavilion Paint Project announced that the public may come to the space-age structure in Queens between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 22, to view and take photos of the interior of the Tent of Tomorrow.

The viewing area will allow visitors to photograph themselves with the pavilion’s classic roof and towers as a backdrop. Hardhats are required and will be passed out.

The pavilion was designed by architect Philip Johnson, and was constructed between 1962 and 1964 to showcase the Empire State at the fair. The “Tent of Tomorrow” measures 350 feet by 250 feet, with 16 100-foot columns that originally suspended a 50,000 square-foot roof of multicolored panels, according to the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

The pavilion also features three space-age towers accessible by capsule elevators – which have long been closed to the public. The shorter two towers held cafeterias, and the tallest – measuring 226 feet – held an observation deck.

At the time of the fair, the pavilion featured a 26-foot scale replica of the St. Lawrence hydroelectric plant from the New York State Power Authority, and local art and industry exhibits, according to the Parks Department.

Most famously, the pavilion featured a map of New York State by the Texaco Company, designed with 567 terrazzo mosaic panels and featuring cities, towns, roads and Texaco gas stations in a 9,000 square-foot tableau.

The Tent of Tomorrow remained in use for years after the fair as a roller rink, and a performance space by the Council for International Recreation, Culture, and Lifelong Education. But the roof of the tent became unstable and was taken down in 1976, leaving the ornate Texaco map exposed to the elements.

In 1997, moviegoers saw one of the disks atop the pavilion towers reveal itself to be a spaceship, take off, and then crash into the nearby Unisphere in the movie “Men in Black.” But the actual pavilion has stayed right where it was, shuttered and rusting.

The only part of the New York State Pavilion that remains in use is the former Theaterama space, which is now used for the Queens Theatre in the Park program.

The Parks Department released plans last fall for restoring the pavilion with new event spaces and landscaped paths, and possible permanently-restored access to the tent and towers, according to a Queens Courier report at the time.

While demolishing the pavilion would cost $14 million, the restoration of the site could cost up to $73 million, the report said.

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