The Hall of Science has “Limited Salvage Value”

In the Spring of 1967, the Hall of Science was booming.  More than 100,000 people had visited since the Hall reopened as a museum following the World’s Fair.  The City formally unveiled plans for an expansion that would include the Atomarium, a nuclear reactor suitable for public demonstration and academic research. With the Atomic Energy Commission as a partner, the City had committed more than $10 million for the plan.  In the Fall of 1967, the City Planning Commission issued its report on the proposed expansion.

Science Museum Called Unworkable

It was not a surprise that the World’s Fair pavilion on its own was not suitable as a museum. The planners knew this all along, as they hurried the Hall into existence behind schedule and over budget. Even with this haste, the Hall of Science didn’t open until September, almost at the close of the 1964 Fair season.  Robert Moses envisioned a museum campus with three buildings spanning more than 20 acres of Flushing Meadows.  The Hall trustees had been developing a master plan for expansion even before the groundbreaking for the Hall in 1963.  What was surprising was the blunt candor of the Commission’s report.  They wrote that the Hall was “a totally inadequate building which had poorly designed exhibit space, which was an acoustical nightmare and which had a long, unattractive ramp entry.”

Mayor Lindsay agreed, and was quick to point out that the Hall of Science was “inherited from the previous administration.”

hall of science a hall of horror

But in concluding its report, the City Planning Commission recommended that the expansion should proceed because the realization of those plans could transform the Hall of Science into “one of the most notable of its kind in the world.”  The Commission’s caveat was that a master plan must be laid out before any exhibit design could proceed.  The Commission hoped to assure that a properly curated museum would replace the hodgepodge of corporate exhibits and Fair holdovers that was then on view.

 

Read more history of the Hall of Science in the NYSCI Archives.