April 22 will mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the New York World’s Fair. The occasion is being marked with an opening to the public, for three hours only, of the abandoned ruins of the New York State Pavilion.
April 22 is also the anniversary of the opening of the Maryland Pavilion, one of the official State Pavilions that would compete for attention, pride points and visitor dollars over for 12 months. The fair ran from April though October of 1964, and reopened for another six months in April 1965.
The restaurant, on the upper level, seats 250. It is softly carpeted, has Queen Anne furniture; on its painted walls hang hunting prints.
The challenge for the planners of was how to stand out in the crowd.
In his Sun Magazine story of April 19, 1964, Ralph Reppert described the challenge facing the planners of Maryland’s Pavilion:
"Plans for the Maryland Pavilion began with the basic problem of taking the State’s million dollar appropriation and building with it a display that would stand out in the fair’s big picture — a half-billion-dollar collection of exhibits that range from a Hawaiian restaurant inside a volcano to life-size dinosaurs and a Cambodian forest."
In other words, give ‘em the old Greta Garbo treatment — keep quiet, look like the last thing in the world you want is any attention, and they’ll never leave you alone.
The Maryland Restaurant Pavilion
Reppert wrote, “Surrounded by a fantastic dream world of the hard, bright, modernistic and astounding, the Maryland Pavilion is an oasis of quiet charm. There is shade, natural greenery, moving water.”
It was a risky strategy that by most accounts paid off. The Maryland Pavilion was cited by Architectural and Engineering News as one of the architectural highlights of the fair.
And, the pavilion received in 1964 what might have been the ultimate product placement: appearing on the cover of some 1 million Maryland phone books. (A phone book was a big book with telephone numbers in it — R.G.)
Or maybe it wasn’t the pavilion’s understated elegance that attracted an estimated 3.5 million visitors over the fair’s run but its choice location, near the main entrance from the subway and close to the United States Pavilion.
Still, the eating facilities — a 250-seat glass-enclosed restaurant and an open-air seafood shack — were financial successes even though they had their detractors. It didn’t please some Baltimoreans at all that the pavilion’s concessions were operated by a New York-based caterer.
In his June 27 letter to the editor of the Baltimore Sun, Morris Bratman wrote, “The management is poor, the service inadequate and the food horrendous.”
Mr. Bratman continued:
"The crab cakes as served here at the Wharf counter were thin as a dime, greasy and fried to a crisp, and altogether unpalatable. … Shame on Maryland!"
And in June of 1964, The Sun reported that the pavilion was making its crab cakes with non-Maryland crab meat. There was no choice, the pavilion’s seafood supplier explained. Crab availability in the spring of 1964 was way below normal. “If the bay had 8 inches of ice on it, it couldn’t be worse,” one Baltimore seafood dealer said.
Some of the fair’s other attractions and buildings were salvaged and were given new homes and purposes, and there was at least some sentiment to preserve something of the Maryland Pavilion.
In her August 14, 1965 letter to The Sun, State Senator Verda F. Welcome fairly pleaded for someone to step forward with a solution, for re-building the pavilion, or a duplicate version elsewhere.
The senator wrote:
"Uses which come to mind include restaurant, club house or resort headquarters, travel information center, library, museum, marina, store and office — possibly with food service."
A few display items, including a Maryland seal and a bronze plaque, were in the Crisfield home of former two-time Maryland Gov. J. Millard Tawes, when The Sun came to visit in August 1967.
Nothing beside remains.