New York City New Deal...

1939 World's Fair Aquacade

Billy Rose's Aquacade in Flushing Meadow Park, Queens, star of the 1939-40 World's Fair, 10,000 seats looking down on a pool "big enough to fit 1,750 tons of water (when there's that much water, gallons ain't gonna cut it)... Synchronized swimming bathing beauties... [Billy Rose was] the 'aquatic Busby Berkeley'"[4]. It was designed by architects Sloan & Robertson in 1936, with several last-minute changes by Billy Rose in 1939[7]. Thus the Aquacade itself was not a New Deal project, except insofar as it sat on land and an infrastructure prepared for it by the WPA (and unless WPA labor was involved in building it).

1939 World's Fair Aquacade

Photo: Culver Pictures via New York Times, 28 May 1995[2].

Aquacade poster
Aquacade poster[4]
Aquacade at the 1939 World's Fair[1]
Aquacade walkway plaque
Aquacade walkway plaque[4]
Aquacade plaque on concession building
1963 concession building plaque[6]

The amphitheatre was meant to be a permanent adornment for the park. After the fair the site was converted to the New York State Marine Amphitheater by the Parks Department with New Deal funding, the architect was Aymar Embury II[3]. It served as a public swimming pool as well as an entertainment venue — light towers, control booth and 9,000 seats left intact — for many years, including the 1964-65 World's Fair, and later renamed the Gertrude Ederle Amphitheater after the English Channel swimmer who grew up in New York and also performed at the Aquacade. Over time the facility fell into disrepair; the pool was closed in 1977 and the entire amphitheater was demolished in 1996[1,2].

New York State Marine Amphitheater
New York State Marine Amphitheater, Flushing Meadow, Queens, 1941-1977.

  1. 1939 New York World's Fair, Wikipedia, accessed 4 November 2019.
  2. At Old Aquacade, Things Aren't Going Swimmingly, New York Times, 28 May 1995, p.218.
  3. Drawing of City Pool to Be Built on Site of Aquacade, New York Times, 16 January 1941, p.20: "Aymur Embury 2d is the architect."
  4. 1939 World's Fair Remnants, Kevin Walsh, Forgotten New York, accessed 4 November 2019.
  5. Aquacade, Queens, Sergey Kadinsky,, April 19, 2016, accessed 4 November 2019.
  6. Marine Amphitheater Groups, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, NYC Parks Department website, accessed 4 November 2019.
  7. Pool to be opened on Aquacade site, New York Times, July 14, 1941, p.15: "The New York State Amphitheater, scene of the Aquacade during the World's Fair, will be opened by the Department of Parks [July 26, 1941] as a combination outdoor swimming pool and theatre for the presentation, of water carnivals and other spectacles, it was announced yesterday."
  8. New York World's Fair 1939 and 1940 Incorporated records, New York Public Library Archives and Manuscripts (in about 2000 boxes).
  9. Video, 20 minutes, mostly in color, Youtube (with anachronistic music and lots of ads), accessed 4 November 2019.
  10. More videos at
  11. The 1939 World's Fair, The Atlantic, November 1, 2013 (photo gallery).
  12. Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 6 Dec 1940, p.5.
  13. The fair's million-dollar aquacade, Queens Chronicle, 22 March 2012.