Time Traveling in NYC: From 1964 to 2014

The editors of Where New York relive NYC, circa 1964.

It all began with an advance copy of Tomorrow-Land, a new book which recently landed on my desk, about the New York World’s Fair of 1964—this month marks the 50th anniversary of that legendary exhibition. Chatting with my fellow editors about it led us to a fantasy: What would it be like to step into a time machine and be catapulted back to Manhattan, 1964? Well, we decided to do that: Take a trip backward and see where we all end up. 

One stop, for me, would have most decidedly been the fair itself, where President Lyndon Johnson made the opening remarks on Apr. 22. (This month, if I get a stab of nostalgia for the 1960s, LBJ-style, I can head over to Broadway and see Bryan Cranston channel the former president in All the Way.)

What else would I be doing back in the ’60s? I could imagine nothing more thrilling than watching the Fab Four perform on The Ed Sullivan Show at CBS’ TV Studio 50 on Feb. 9, 1964. (Now, if I need a dose of spectacularly energetic pop music, it would be a Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden).

Finally, if I got a hankering for a salad back then, it would be the Waldorf Astoria’s Waldorf salad. Today, you can still order it: apples, celery and walnuts, tossed in a creamy dressing.—Lois Levine 

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In the summer of ’64, my parents took me to see the World’s Fair—my first visit to New York! I remember going on the Walt Disney-designed ride, “It’s a Small World After All,” and dozing on the long subway trip back to Manhattan, the catchy theme (sung by puppets in multiple languages) invading my dreams.

If my adult self could visit NYC that year, what would she do? Mingle with the era’s Beautiful People on opening night of the New York State Theater in the new cultural complex, Lincoln Center. It was built with a special dancer-friendly stage to house the New York City Ballet. Now the David H. Koch Theater, it still does (the spring season begins this month, in fact). I’d be garbed in a gown (by Geoffrey Beene, or perhaps Ungaro) from Bonwit Teller, the sophisticated Midtown department store. Gone now, alas—though Armani Fifth Avenue, in almost exactly the same spot, satisfies cravings for classically chic designer wear. For occasion dining: The Forum of the Twelve Caesars, an opulent spot with an ancient-Roman ambience and tongue-in-cheek theatrics (flambéed peacock, anyone)? While The Forum has fallen, its heritage lives in such playfully themed places as Tao and Tao Downtown, where huge Buddha gods preside over the exotic, pan-Asian eats.—Troy Segal

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The times they are a-changin’, Bob Dylan’s iconic folk album, hit stores in January of ’64. The message is as true today as it was then. We’re in an age of change, and change inspires. One just has to get with the beat. Then, civil rights was the issue of the day and Harlem was ablaze with race riots. Today, President Obama is the first black man to lead the free world and the Uptown ’hood is in bloom, bumping with jazz joints and a revived restaurant scene. Just look at the recent opening of Minton’s, a swanky live music hub and Southern comfort-food haven that pays homage to the 1930s jazz club of the same name; or Harlem Shake, a bustling retro diner attracting citywide crowds. The civil rights fight continues in 2014, this time on behalf of the LGBT community. The group makes strides toward greater equality every day. In the ’60s, a police raid of the Stonewall Inn culminated in the violent Stonewall Riots (at the still operating Village gay bar). Now, if you steer queer, NYC is your town—with all-are-welcome hot spots, from Williamsburg’s offbeat Metropolitan Bar to Hell’s Kitchen’s dancey Industry club. The beat goes on. And it’s a beat worth swaying to. —William Frierson

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The year 1964 paved the way for never-before-seen looks—psychedelic patterns, winged eyeliner, go-go boots and exotic dresses liberated American women from the conformist styles of decades past. These revolutionary designs continue to inspire contemporary couturiers, making it easy for mod lovers, like me, to embrace retro trends. It was in 1964 that André Courrèges took fashion into the future with his Space Age collection—a concept modernized in 2014 by the eye-catching prints and vibrant colors of Desigual’s dresses and the vogue aesthetics at Lisa Perry New York. Oscar de la Renta, who doubled the size of his Madison Avenue boutique last year, also made his claim to fame in the early ’60s by dressing Jacqueline Kennedy and draping women in maxi dresses. While de la Renta’s fans relished the casual, floor-length frocks, other women gravitated toward sky-high hemlines after the miniskirt made its debut in a 1964 issue of Vogue. Now, the Museum at FIT pays tribute to the decade’s daring hemlines by displaying iconic pieces from the time in Trend-ology (thru Apr. 30). 1964 may have been 50 years ago, but its defining fashion inspires this 25-year-old’s sense of style and imagination. —Joni Sweet

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Let my colleagues fantasize about New York in 1964: I lived through what was the best and worst of times, forever defined (for me, at least) by the assassination of President Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

But New York was—and is—nothing if not resilient. One of the first signs of a return to life after the tragedy was the Broadway opening of Hello, Dolly! on Jan. 16, 1964. I loved it then, but I wonder now if the critical and public reception would have been half so ecstatic had the world not desperately needed a lighthearted musical in which to find escape.

The power of art to heal extended to the fine arts, too. Blockbuster retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art—on Pierre Bonnard and Max Beckmann—opened my eyes, while a show at the Wildenstein gallery turned me on to Camille Pissarro, who became the hero of a term paper in which I trashed pop idol Andy Warhol as a charlatan. Heady stuff.

My fondest 1964 memory? The Vatican Pavilion at the World’s Fair. Enshrined there, direct from St. Peter’s Basilica, was Michelangelo’s “Pietà” sculpture. Reverent spectators, standing on futuristic moving walkways, glided past the 1499 marble masterpiece. Going forward and looking back: a fitting metaphor for what we IN editors have been doing here.—Francis Lewis

 

SLIDESHOW: The Best of 1964 and 2014