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1939 New York World's Fair - Government Zone Map
Map of the Government Zone.

The Government Zone was divided into three sections. The first section, which was spread over the entire zone, contained the buildings that were erected as stand-alone pavilions for the individual country. A few were constructed in other zones of the Fair. Cuba was located in the Amusement Zone, Sweden and Turkey were in the Food Zone.

The second section was centrally located around the Lagoon of Nations. There were seven groups of attached buildings collectively know as the "Hall of Nations." Each of the buildings was divided into separate exhibit halls that housed the displays and information for a particular country.

The Court of States comprised the third section of the Government Zone. Here too, not all the exhibiting states were present. Florida was located in the Amusement Zone on the southwest side of Fountain Lake and New York owned the Amphitheater on the lake's west side.

Numerous events were held on the Court of Peace, included here are photos of an Equestrian Performance and the story of the Haskell Guard.

Government Zone
Government zone
Photo courtesy of Robert Klein
Perisphere Ponderings

Foreign Pavilions

In his end-of-the-season review of “The World of Tomorrow,” national columnist Earl Wilson noted: “Unquestionably, the Foreign Area, the Fair's greatest triumph, sprang from Grover Whalen’s selling genius.” However, this accomplishment did not come easily. Almost simultaneous events in the United States and Europe in late 1936 melded together to formulate the international exhibits in the Government Zone.

In 1928, twenty-one governments signed a treaty establishing the International Bureau of Expositions to authorize and oversee future expositions. (European participants never used the word “fair” for such undertakings as that term to them meant a trade show.) The United States and the U.S.S.R. were not signatories.

The I.B.E. required a formal request for authorization be made in person before the Bureau and the host country's government acceding to that request.

In late June, the United States Senate and House of Representatives passed a resolution authorizing the president to invite foreign powers to participate in the 1939 Fair. On November 16, FDR issued a proclamation which concluded: “Now, therefore, I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America do invite the participation of the nations in this World’s Fair.”

Grover Whalen traveled Paris and presented New York's case before the Bureau. A few weeks later the I.B.E. granted its permission for a second-class exposition, thus relieving itself of any financial responsibilities.

With Paris holding a major exposition in 1937, Britain and France expressed reluctance at constructing major pavilions in New York two years later. “The World of Tomorrow’s” president sprang into action.

Whalen traveled to Washington and met with Soviet acting ambassador Constantine Oumansky. On the spot Whalen invited the U.S.S.R. to participate and surprisingly the ambassador picked up the phone and placed a long-distance call to the Kremlin, speaking directly to Joseph Stalin. Within half an hour the Soviet leader agreed to construct a $4,000,000 pavilion on the fairgrounds. Whalen now had the leverage he needed for success.

Following the announcement of Soviet participation, Whalen returned to a more agreeable Europe. Shortly thereafter the Fair's president cabled his site planners with an unusual order, the newly authorized French pavilion would now be located beside the lagoon, amidst the planned state pavilions. Realizing the importance and genius of this move, the Fair’s organizers relocated the Court of States to a nearby site, thus creating the wondrous plethora of nations surrounding The Court of Peace and the Lagoon of Nations.