Nightly News

Nightly News   |  April 22, 2014

Why the New York World’s Fair Once Attracted 50 Million

On the 50th anniversary of the New York World’s Fair, NBC News takes a look back at a time when anything seemed possible in America.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> rainy and cloudy skies here in new york don't exactly help to brighten up a place that's been largely abandoned but you're looking live at a place that was teaming exactly 50 years ago tonight. sadly the plaza has fallen into disrepair in the years since. it's the 50th anniversary of the world's fair of 1964 . it was the epicenter of an era when anything seemed possible in america. looking back a lot of it came true. in tonight's report from nbc's harry smith , mr. smith goes back in time to the world's fair of '64.

>> reporter: 50 years ago it was the place you came to see the future. the place america displayed it's optimism and technological muscle.

>> your own private convertible takes you on the magic skype.

>> reporter: 1964 what couldn't we do?

>> technology can point the way to a future of limitless promise.

>> reporter: a picture phone , crazy, right?

>> it would be possible to do it around the world?

>> reporter: or computers in the home. we were all going to live in space colonies or under the sea. it's a small world brought animatronics to a level never seen before. the ford introduced mustang. the new york 's world fair proved the world was its oyster.

>> it was magical here.

>> reporter: john started group that's trying to rehab the once glorious new york state pavilion.

>> what did this place used to look like?

>> this pavilion was stunning with lights and color. it's called the tents of tomorrow this area. so it was sensory overload.

>> reporter: the fair was like a magnet more than 50 million people attended. john even played in a band here.

>> when you stand here and you look at it as it is now, does it break your heart?

>> no. because right now it's a modern ruin and modern ruins have their own majestic look. this is beautiful. you're up here. you think you're in greece or rome.

>> reporter: or in a scene from a movie "men in black." some of the fair's great structures still stand. the unisphere still stands. and the belgian waffle . the fair represented innocence and possibility on a grand scale . the likes of which we haven't seen since. harry smith , nbc news, queens.