Thursday, June 12, 2014

Those Places Thursday: HemisFair '68 and the Tower of the Americas, 1968 and 2007


In a post earlier this week, I mentioned HemisFair '68, the World's Fair for 1968, which was held in San Antonio, Texas.  My family visited the fair (which ran from April 6 through October 6) on August 15, and I bought the postcard above and sent it to my pen pal, who kindly saved it for me.  On the back, I wrote,

HemisFair was great!  We didn't get to see everything, though.  The best things were the Italy and Texas Pavilions, the IBM and Coke Pavilions, Tower of the Americas, the Laterna Magika show, and the roller coaster on Fiesta Island.

Here are some photos I took at the fair, with descriptions from the Souvenir Book of Hemisfair '68:

"Coca-Cola Company brings theater to the fair.  Here, in its 500-seat theater, the company presents the puppets of Sid and Marty Krofft in a special play called Kaleidoscope." (page 17)

"IBM: Lakeside:. Key feature of the IBM Lakeside Pavilion, one of two the corporation has constructed on site, is a light-hearted informative movie explaining the operation of modern computers." (page 20).  I'm not sure if this is the Lakeside or the nearly-identical Durango Pavilion which "houses a unique, computer-operated loom that will weave a sample of cloth for the visitor." (page 21)

Mexico's pavilion had a small outdoor performing stage over the water, a "floating theater."  Today, this pavilion houses the Instituto Cultural de Mexico.

I took two photos at the "Paper and People" exhibit.  I haven't found any information about this (so far) in official HemisFair information available online, but an article called  "HemisFair Isn't Biggest, But 'Best',"  from the Abilene Reporter-News, April 23, 1968, page 20 said, "PAPER AND PEOPLE is an unusual exhibit reviewing the development of paper from the second century B. C. in China to 'way out' art using paper with its many textures and forms."  I also found it in the San Antonio Light, April 22, 1968, page 6, in an article called "HemisFare," (continued from page 1), under the heading "Theme Exhibits," as "Paper and People - A world of paper, from furniture to art. (In Plazas del Mundo.)"  "Paper and People also shows up on the Official Souvenir HemisFair 1968 Map under "Theme Exhibits/Structures" in Las Plazas del Mundo, which was where the national pavilions were.  It was located at the western end of the fair grounds. Along with all the new structures housing foreign pavilions, many of the 19th century homes and commercial buildings preserved on the site were remodeled and served as restaurants, pavilions, and shops during the fair.

Then of course, there is the Tower of the Americas, the signature structure of HemisFair, and, next to the Alamo, the most recognized structure in San Antonio today.  Those of you going to San Antonio for the Federation of Genealogical Societies' 2014 Conference (#FGS2014) in late August can easily walk to the Tower from the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center (the original part of which was built for - you guessed it - HemisFair '68).  The admission fee includes unlimited access to Flags Over Texas Observation Deck, and the Skies Over Texas 4D Theater Ride during operating hours.  You can also enjoy lunch or dinner at the tower's restaurant.

Breathless and me at the top of the Tower of the Americas in April 2007
There are also some beautiful water features in HemisFair Park, near the Tower and the Convention Center.


This one is called the Hemisfair Mini-Monorail Monument, because it incorporates concrete structural elements from the original monorail at the fair:


As is the case with all World's Fairs, the HemisFair '68 site has changed over the years. Twenty-four historic structures incorporated into HemisFair '68 still exist today, the oldest ones dating to the 1840s.  Many structures put up just for the fair are gone, but others remain, some with their original usage, others with new uses.  The two buildings making up the USA Pavilion, for example, were constructed with the intention of turning them into the federal courthouse and judicial training center that they are today.  The city is currently in the midst of a plan to transform this area further.

A really great general website about Hemisfair '68 is http://www.worldsfair68.info/.  More information about the history of the site is available here: http://www.sanantonio.gov/planning/pdf/hemisfair/04a_site_history.pdf and here: http://www.sanantonio.gov/planning/pdf/hemisfair/09b_site_inventory.pdf.


© Amanda Pape - 2014 - click here to e-mail me.

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