By SERGEY KADINSKY
Forgotten NY correspondent
In the southeastern corner of the central core of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is a set of mounds with footstones citing biblical verses under the shade of trees. Were it not for the noise of nearby Long Island Expressway, and lack of benches to sit on, the Garden of Meditation would live up to its name. At the least it would have been nice if a noise barrier was erected to reduce the highway noise.
This garden originated as an exhibit for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair when most of the park was occupied by buildings representing countries, states, companies, and organizations. Within this crowded event space, a 4.3-acre green parcel was retained as a park, with pine, birch and oak trees; mountain laurel, azaleas, lilies, irises planted inside it. Benches lined the path ringing this garden and a small pond was carved into its center. The pond dried up with the closing of the fair and the signature World’s Fair benches were relocated to other parks.
At the entrance to this garden, an oval stone quotes Sir Francis Bacon’s essay titled, Of Gardens, “God Almighty first planted a Garden; and, indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures. It is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man.”
Smaller rectangular stones along the path quote Bible verses: Numbers 6, verses 24-26; Micah 6, verse 8; and Romans 12, verses 10 and 12. I have no idea which individuals selected these quotes. Had the fair been held in our time, there would like be additional quotes included from Islam, eastern religions, and Native American faiths, as well as secular philosophers.
Across a path from the Meditation Garden was a Lithuanian wayside cross representing this historic eastern European nation which was annexed by the Soviets in 1940. Its presence at the fair offered a reminder to visitors that not all nations had their independence. In the context of the Cold War, the annexation was never recognized by the United States. Lithuania regained its sovereignty in 1990.
What happened to this Lithuanian cross after the fair ended is a mystery. Either it was destroyed or adopted by a Lithuanian exile community. The only other Lithuanian wayside cross in Queens can be found at the Transfiguration Church in Maspeth, but it is not the cross from the World’s Fair.
Here are more World’s Fair remains found in Flushing Meadows.
Sergey Kadinsky is the author of Hidden Waters of New York City: A History and Guide to 101 Forgotten Lakes, Ponds, Creeks, and Streams in the Five Boroughs (2016, Countryman Press)