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Once the fair corporation settled on the Queens for its "World of Tomorrow," it faced the daunting challenge of reclaiming a long – established dump into a successful site worthy of a world's fair.

Perhaps no greater praise for Grover Whalen's efforts for the world's fair rang truer than he "made The World of Tomorrow out of The Mudpuddle of Yesterday."

After reviewing Joseph Shadgen's research on possible locations for the fair throughout the five boroughs, the fair corporation agreed with the engineer and settled on the Queens borough's trash dump. But what to do with it? The Corona Dump was one and a half times larger than Central Park!

F. Scott Fitzgerald mockingly characterized the Flushing Meadows site in The Great Gatsby as "the valley of ashes – a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens."

The transformation of 50,000,000 yards of ashes accumulated over fifty years and sunk into the salty mud at a depth of forty feet into a breathtaking wonderland seemed a staggering impossibility. Especially with less than three years to accomplish this metamorphosis.

At the ground breaking on June 29, 1936, Grover Whalen observed: "Everywhere was an odor of buried and smoldering rubbish, which was evil enough. But there were mosquitoes of a size you couldn't believe existed." A friend pulled Whalen aside and lamented: "Grover, I hope you know what you're doing. Doesn't look to me as if anything can ever be done with this dump."

The ash dump covered roughly 300 acres of the 1200-acre site. Reclamation began by bulldozing the ash mounds. One, known as Mount Corona, stood over 100 feet high. After leveling the ashes, 30,000 men moved 7,000,000 cubic feet of fill in 190 days.

Working round the clock in seven and a half hour shifts, floodlights blazed from twelve eighty-foot towers through the night. The workers then added 800,000 cubic feet of top soil created from the salty, acid, fibrous root soil specially set aside for this purpose. The cost? $2,200,000!

As the reclamation project progressed, residents noticed a sizable decrease in the number of rats in the Corona area. However, an unexpected side effect of this rodent decline caused owls to seek out cats to supplement their diets. One particularly aggressive owl, known as Oscar, met an unlikely end.

Patrolman William De Nola, alerted by distraught neighbors, climbed a tree and threw his coat over the poacher. When taken to the local police station, officers discovered Oscar had a dislocated wing, apparently from a fight with larger food source. Veterinarians determined Oscar could not recover, even with surgery, and put him and his neighborhood out of their misery.

Underground improvements cost an additional $12,000,000: 13 miles of gas mains, 15 miles of water mains, 30 miles of sewers and 15 miles of electric cables.

As the surface settled, pavers constructed fifty-one miles of roads and pathways throughout the grounds. The bus routes and main highways consisted of a four-inch thickness of crushed stone overlaid with a three-inch layer of cold laid plant-mixed bituminous macadam. The lighter traffic paths were laid with a lighter bituminous mixture on a base of cinders.

George Ross now reassured his readers: "There's nothing to the rumor but perhaps you would like to know that there had been talk of the NYWF sinking in a marsh. It was one of those wildfire alarms, like the monthly discoveries of Judge Crater in a nearby hamlet."

On April 2, 1937 Henry Nye, chief landscape designer, oversaw the first transplanting of 10,000 trees, most averaging 55-foot to 60-foot tall, 12 to 20 inches in diameter, and weighing 25 to 30 tons each. The trees arrived from locations sixty miles away by train and then escorted by police cars through the city in the early hours of the morning. Huge machines lifted the trees into place and diesel-driven bulldozers shoved dirt around the roots and tamped the top soil down. Amazingly, only two percent of the transplanted trees died. Total cost - $350,000.

The wide mixture of trees included red and Norway maples, American elms, pin oaks, honey locusts and dogwood. However, not all fairgoers appreciated the massive arboreal effort. Some complained about the addition of crabapple trees to the mix. The fair's planners responded they added charm with their blossoms.

A first-day patron noted: "There is virtually no man-made green in the fair. That color is supplied by nature." Horticulturalists had planted 270,000 bedding plants, 400,000 pansies, 500,000 hedge plants, 10,000 vines, 350,000 ground cover plants and 150,000 square feet of sod. They also used 650 tons of fertilizers.

No single horticultural wonder amazed the fairgoers than the opening week's tulip beds. The Post raved: "How appropriate it is that the country which gave this old city a start should be the one to conquer our new world's fair with a myriad of flowers! Holland's triumph is all the more complete because it is brief."

Holland donated 1,000,000 bulbs to the fair for its glorious display. Three of the world's greatest tulip experts oversaw the planting. The fair's landscape department planted as many as 90,000 bulbs a day in late November, 1938.

A special act of Congress allowed the generous gift into the United States duty free. However, as the Holland Tulip Growers Association did not want to destroy its American market, it requested no provision was to be made to preserve them after the first year. Therefore, the bulbs were to be burned at the end of the growing season.

It was estimated an additional $4,000 to $6,000, the customs rate for the million tulips, was all that was needed for the replanting. Fortunately, the fair rescinded this "mass murder" order when irate gardeners insisted the bulbs be replanted in the fall for the second season. Many saw this as the most hopeful sign of the fair's success. Unfortunately, all was to no avail. The fair decided on a later opening date for the 1940 season, well past the time for the tulip display.

Everyone raved over the massive tulip beds. However, even the most careful gardeners sometimes make planting errors. As the tulips bloomed in front of the New York City Building, a stray red blossom burst forth amidst the all-white plantings. Unsure what to do, the grounds crew left the straggler alone.

A few tulips did not make it to the second season, however. Two rare types, the pink and red bloom Venus and the salmon colored King George V, had not survived through the rather harsh New York spring weather.

The fair's horticultural department planted 400,750 pansies in the tulip beds as a color replacement. Gardening critics decried: "The pansies that have replaced the fair's magnificent tulip display are somewhat of a let-down."