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Thousands Show Up To Celebrate 50th Anniversary Of ‘World’s Fair’

New York State Pavilion Named 1 Of 44 'National Treasures' In United States

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Fifty years ago, the “New York World’s Fair” opened in Queens. Many who were there returned Tuesday to mark a very happy anniversary.

They lined up by the thousands, just like they poured onto the grounds on this day back in 1964. They carried their World’s Fair identification cards, and so many memories.

“It brings chills to me because it was a very special time in my life,” Gail Fiorelli told CBS 2’s Dick Brennan.

“I grew up dirt poor in Brooklyn, and this was like beyond Disney World to me,” Sheldon Lapidus added.

In an age before theme parks, there were exhibits and rides at the World’s Fair.

EXTRA: WORLD’S FAIR 50TH PHOTO GALLERY

“To ride the monorail was like the new subway, I thought,” Tom Piragnoli said.

Hans von Rittern said he attended the fair and told Brennan he became obsessed with the “It’s a Small World” exhibit.

“Yes and it can’t leave your head, and it’s still in everybody’s head today,” von Rittern said.

“Everybody my age remembers the Pieta,” Maureen O’Connor said, referring to the famed Michelangelo sculpture that was brought to the fair.

The fair also brought the introduction of a breakfast revolution, including the Belgian waffle, and the unisphere, which, despite being a target of destruction in the movies, still stands 140 feet tall.

RESTORING THE NEW YORK STATE PAVILION

Best known as the centerpiece of the World’s Fair, the New York State Pavilion has been designated as a “National Treasure” by The National Trust For Historic Preservation.

Officials made the announcement during a special celebration marking the anniversary of the fair.

Crowds line up at the New York State Pavilion on April 22, 2014. (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

Crowds line up at the New York State Pavilion on April 22, 2014. (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

The famed pavilion in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is now one of 44 “National Treasures” in the entire United States.

The designation is given to “structures that are built to our architectural, social and political history. The kind of buildings we cannot imagine being without,” said Paul Goldberger of The National Trust For Historic Preservation.

The pavilion was designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson.

It closed following the World’s Fair, though was occasionally used as a concert venue and a movie set.

Through the years it fell into a state of disrepair and has been rusting away for decades.

Recently there has been a push by activists to preserve the pavilion. Volunteers have even taken to painting the lower level of it  red, white and yellow to spruce it up, CBS 2’s Scott Rapoport reported.

Now with its newly minted designation as a National Treasure, many are hoping that talk of preserving and restoring this special structure will turn to action.

Tuesday was the first time in decades that visitors were allowed to go inside and tour the pavilion.

“I hope they fix it up and make it nice for the future generations to see,” said Tom Robinson, of Lindenhurst, who was first in line to take the tour. “I grew up here, I saw this back in ’64, I rode with the Mustangs in the Ford pavilion, I had my first Belgian waffle here.”

It will cost about $40 million to restore the pavilion, preservationists said.

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