Monday, January 6, 2014

There's a 1939 World's Fair Home in North Four Corners

It's no secret that Four Corners has some nice old houses.  Many of the homes closer to the intersection are over 75 years old.  Each neighborhood has its share of pre-war 1930's homes.  The Polychrome Historic District in South Four Corners comes to mind as a notable example of 1930's era architecture.  The 5 Art Deco houses were built in 1934-1935 by John Joesph Early, who used brightly colored pre-cast concrete panels to build the futuristic looking homes.  I always knew these houses were unique, and I assumed they were the only houses in Four Corners to have such an interesting history.  I was wrong.

This house on Sutherland Drive was featured at the 1939-1940 World's Fair in New York City.  Image from Google StreetView.
More after the jump...

 This home on Sutherland Drive in North Four Corners seems like any other house in the Four Corners area.  It is a 1 and 1/2 story cape cod style house on a standard sized lot.  It appears to be well kept up, with some nice Hydrangea bushes under the front windows.  It just seems like an ordinary house.  I wouldn't have thought anything different, had it not been for a placemarker on Google Maps in the general vicinity of the home that said "1939 Worlds Fair House".  When I saw this, I was confused.  I have lived in Four Corners for my whole life, and I had never heard anything of a World's Fair house being in the area.  I assumed any house from the World's Fair would be an architecturally unique looking one, like those that make up the Polychrome Historic District.  I thought the marker had been misplaced, since this house is on the same street as the Polychrome houses, albeit in a different neighborhood.  Turns out it wasn't misplaced at all.  

"The Town of Tomorrow" exhibit #15 at the 1939 World's Fair.  This is the exact same home that is now on Sutherland Drive.  Click image for bigger version.

It was called the "Triple Insulated Home" when it was on display at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, New York for the 1939 World's Fair.  The Triple Insulated name was not referring to the physical insulation of the home, but rather, "Protection against fire, weather, and wear".  It was on display at the fairgrounds in flushing for the better part of a year, in an exhibit know as "The Town of Tomorrow".  It was on display along side 14 other homes from varying architectural styles.  The home was designed by the architectural firm Goodwin, Thompson, and Paterson and furnished by Gertz, Jaimaca, L.I. (whoever they are).  The Fair brochure described the home in the following way:

The plan provides a maximum of usable space, fine circulation, ample closets and with seven rooms and three baths accommodations for four or five persons and a maid. Two unusual features are the workshop kitchen with a bay for flowers back of the sink area and a first floor workshop of another kind for the man who likes to keep his own house shipshape.

The description of the home itself is a product of its time.  While it is now very unusual for middle class families to have a live-in maid, it sounds like it was the norm back then.  The idea of a "workshop kitchen" is also interesting to me.  I'm not sure if that was just the term back then for a normal kitchen, or if it alluded to some other kind of kitchen.  And finally, there's the workshop for "the man who likes to keep his own house in shipshape".  I guess every man was expected to know how to fix stuff back then, so they could brag about their "shipshape" house.     

Drawing of The Town of Tomorrow at the 1939 New York World's Fair.  The house that is now on Sutherland Drive is top, second from the left. 

Fair visitors checking out the house.
I do not know how or why this house ended up in Four Corners, but I'm glad it did.  The house looks a little different than it did then, but the changes are minimal.  An awning has been added over the door, and the shutters and windows look like they have been replaced (understandably so, 75 year old windows can be quite drafty).  Aside from those minor changes, the house appears to be the same as it was in 1939.  The current footprint of the house on Google Earth looks identical to the shape pictured in the blueprint on the Fair brochure (pictured above), meaning there have been no additions added to the structure.  From a historical preservation standpoint, this is great news.  I'm not sure if this property is eligible for membership on the National Register of Historic Places, but it would be worth looking in to.  It's neat to think that hundreds of thousands of people probably walked through this "futuristic" house over the course of the Fair, a house that is now considered completely normal.    

UPDATE: Turns out this house is an exact duplicate of the World's Fair Home, but not the same one that was on display.  This blog post suggests it is the only such duplicate, however, so I guess it's still historic.


  1. The World's Fair House opened on 7/14/1939 on Sutherland Ave. in 4 Corners. Check out this information from David Rotenstein.

  2. @Linda

    Thanks for your comment. The editor of the NFCCA Northwood News contacted me and gave me some great info about this house and other historic properties in North Four Corners as well. I searched the web about this house before I wrote this post but I couldn't find much. Interesting to know it is an exact duplicate. Thanks for the link, I'll update the post

  3. Sorry if this is a duplicate, I think I might have messed it up, so decided to re post. Thanks, Ann Scandiffio
    I am the daughter of the first owners of this property. David Rotenstein contacted me in 2012 and he sent me photos of the interior of the home. The only change made was the refrigerator & possibly the dishwasher. I lived in the house from aged 1 week old, till I was about 6-7 years old. Reply to me at if you like. I can send you links and photos.