Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Underground Home

Year:   1964
Location:   Flushing Meadow Park, Queens

One of the oddest and least seen exhibits at the World's Fair of 1964-65 was the "Underground Home" a modular, fully-functional subterranean residence. Designed by a Texas builder named Jay Swayze in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Underground Home was designed to protect families from the aftermath of an atomic attack. Swayze included grow lights in the Underground Home so that residents could have live plants, though the model was decorated with both real and silk plants. Small, invisible and expensive, the Underground Home was affordable only by a few wealthier Americans, though Swayze claimed to have 516,000 orders on the books (he also claimed that over a million people had toured his exhibit, an impossibility given its size versus the length of the Fair).  Although the Underground Home was a bust in 1965, Swayze resurrected the idea in 1980 when Ronald Reagan became President.  The fall of the Soviet empire finally put paid to the Underground Home, though a few remain spotted around the country, true architectural oddities.

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