August 15, 2005
Four Years of Freedom, Part II
Are you still dreaming of visiting the long-extinct Freedomland? Now, through the miracle of technology, you can do more than dream. You can visit Freedomland, just by watching this Freedomland "moving-picture" (with original music!). It will take to back to the early 1960's: the heyday of that most wondrous of freedom-themed parks.
July 27, 2005
Four Years of Freedom
Imagine this, if you will – walking from New York to Chicago to New Orleans (and the Southwest) to San Francisco – all in one short day. At Freedomland Theme Park, such a thing was possible. Freedomland. A miniature United States. It was even built in the shape of the United States (though a visitor to the park would have never known it without taking a look at a map of the park). Freedomland. A 205 acre celebration of freedom and U.S. patriotism... in the bronx!
Unfortunately Freedomland was not quite as successful as its inspired predecessor, Disneyland. In fact, word has it, it was just plain boring and, in 1964, after dumping four years and over 50 million dollars the park, Freedomland was finally forced to close its doors.
But the memory of Freedom lives on! All you ever wanted to know about the park (and more) can be found at Rob Friedman's Freedomland website. And don't miss his collection of Freedomland memorabilia.
Reader comment: Bob Mangels says,
Freedomland was a great park, not boring at all as you inferred! One of the best parks ever built! Way ahead of its time. It's demise was part of a plan for a housing project that would gain the land owner a better return than any amusement park could.
June 28, 2005
Cyclorama in Distress
The year is 1961, and these men are working fast and furiously on Richard Neutra's Cyclorama Building. They probably would be pleased to hear that their work would come to be called "one of the showplaces of the National Park System" by the New York Times. The Washington post would praise it for being "quietly monumental but entirely unsentimental... and fearlessly modern." Eventually it would make the National Register of Historic Places for its "exceptional historic and architectural significance."
Neutra really put his heart into this one toward the end of his life. So you have to wonder what his reaction would be if he had any idea that the National Park Service was now rarin' to tear the place to the ground. It seems that somebody important prefers a "more appropriate" architectural style... and a big parking lot.
Please help protect Neutra's creation by signing this online petition.
Incidentally, the cyclorama displays a 40 foot high painting of the 1883 Battle of Gettysburg.
June 24, 2005
A cyclorama is not some futuristic vehicle. It's not the newest component for your hi-fi. Instead, invented back in 1787, the cyclorama was the world's first successful stab at virtual reality. The idea was simple: put people in a big round room where any and all surfaces are painted to look like an amazing place or event. Perhaps it's a far-away city. Perhaps it's a famous battle. In any case, the cyclorama audience was (and still is) instantly transported to worlds they could have previously only imagined... or something to this effect.
A few of these old cycloramas are still in existence. If you can't personally visit one, check out these QTVR panoramas:
May 26, 2005
May 25, 2005
Big Happy Futurama
If you had been lucky enough to visit the New York World's Fair in 1939-1940, you might have seen a sci-fi metropolis, similar to the the one shown above, at General Motor's Futurama exhibit. I'm talking the real Futurama. The original Futurama. The incredible 37,000 square foot Futurama, stuffed full of over 2,000,000 miniature buildings - Norman Bel Geddes' miniatized, ultra-modernized city-of-the future. The hit of the show! Lines to get in grew up to over a mile long!
Tiny cars, small waterfalls, little puffy clouds, miniature airplanes hovering by - all within an incredibly intricate landscape. Future, baby, future.
A second Futurama was created for the New York World's Fair in 1964-1965. Here, terrestrial cities, undersea communities and lunar colonies were displayed side-by-side, in one big, happy General Motors universe. Wow!
For more info on Futurama, check out The Journal of Ride Theory Omnibus, edited by Dan Howland.