One of my original visits to New Orleans was in the 1980s and involved a visit to the World's Fair. Is there anything remaining from the fair?
Larry T. Moscoe
I certainly hope you enjoyed yourself and will return. Just don't wait for another international fair. The official name was the Louisiana World Exhibition, but it was also known as the New Orleans World's Fair. It was also the last world's fair held in the United States, and the only world's fair that went bankrupt during its operating season. It opened on May 12, 1984, and closed on Nov. 11. Seven million folks had a good time, but guests didn't spend enough money to recoup the $350 million it cost to produce the exposition.
Not much remains of the fair itself, but there are pieces of one of the most distinctive features: the Wonderwall, designed by Charles Moore and William Trumbull. Built down the center of the fair property, the half-mile-long structure depicted fantasy scenes and contained food booths, gift shops, a radio station and rest areas. The wall was dismantled after the fair ended, and many pieces were sold at auction. There are remnants of it throughout the city.
From the World's Fair came the Riverwalk Marketplace and the redevelopment of the Warehouse District. The most significant building that remains, however, is the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the first part of which originally was constructed for the fair. Most other structures were demolished after the exhibition closed.
Another building used as a pavilion for the fair was the Federal Fibre Mills warehouse at 1107 S. Peters St., designed by the architectural firm Favrot and Livaudais and completed in 1907. The building was used for the production of rope, largely for ships. The old rope factory was converted for the fair, and in the lobby was a German beer garden. Today the building is an upscale condominium.
In a small park on Elk Place is a large head lying on its side. The head, created by husband-and-wife team Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne, appeared at the fair as a water sculpture. It was called The Source and was overgrown with foliage. Water streamed from the eyes into a pool.
Personalized bricks are still here on the river side of Fulton Street between St. Joseph and Julia streets. Before the fair, the city ordered 165,000 bricks and reserved 10,000 of them for the Preservation Resource Center, which tried to sell the bricks to raise money to build a Creole cottage exhibit in the Great Hall. The bricks cost $25, and the PRC sold about 7,500, telling prospective brick buyers that they would be "insuring a measure of immortality." The personalized bricks caused a problem because the names on them were in letters only a quarter-inch high, and the bricks were laid in four directions. Finding a particular brick was almost impossible without a map, but the PRC provided one. A group of workers spent days and days crawling about on their hands and knees taking note of each brick and its location. Then they produced a 75-page list of the names in alphabetical order. To further help, the group divided the sidewalk into 25 areas, then separated each area into four quadrants. To find the location of a brick, all you had to do was visit the PRC's Creole cottage, get a map and begin your search. The group did not, however, provide magnifying glasses.