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Related Museum Links Preparations for the 1939 World’s Fair

Pan American Clipper at Treasure Island

ASCAP Cavalcade of Music at the Fair

Huff’s Sculptures at the World’s Fair

Other World’s Fair Exhibits

Preparations for the 1940 Fair

Mayor Rossi’s Labor Day Speech at Treasure Island

Aerial View of Treasure Island - 1994

Treasure Island — Environmental Hazards — 1995

By Harmon Butler

Cover of San Francisco Life magazine for May 1940. Drawing by Stanley W. Galli

Do you remember the first time you saw Treasure Island by night: the unearthly beauty of courts, pavilions and gardens as painted in glowing colors by hidden lights? That impression remains fixed in the minds of every visitor as an experience in sheer beauty not likely to be equaled in our time.

This year you will find the same rainbow beauty reflected from walls and fountains under the more prosaic sun, for color–and more color–is the keynote of the 1940 Exposition. Yesterday I spent many hours watching workmen give new life to drab surfaces–using their paint sprays to achieve in daylight the richness of hue that did not appear until night in 1939.

There is nothing garish about the colors being used; some are strong, but all are subtly blended and in perfect harmony–while the sculptured texture of the walls themselves lend added softness to the effect. For instance, in the Court of Pacifica, focal point of the entire Fair, the Old Gal herself and all the members of her court grouped about the fountain are in creamy white. The famed prayer curtain is no longer colorless by day, for the glittering metal stars are backed by a soft, rich blue–slightly violet in hue. This same blue covers the massive pylons at the corners of the court, while the intervening walls are in dull gold and chartreuse yellow. The lower panels of the entrance and the doors to surrounding palaces are in rich, strawberry-shortcake red, while the low borders of the court are in dull, avocado green–to continue the food simile.

The long Court of the Seven Seas, leading from Pacifica to the Tower of the Sun, has been changed from moonlight to sunlight. Gone is the blue and white effect; the walls are creamy white, but color accents are in dull gold and salmon. Even the banners hung from the ship's-mast light fixtures are in orange and white.

The Tower of the Sun looks very much taller and more impressive in its new coat of cream white, while the faint blues of the Court of the Moon have been stepped up to more intense shades. The Courts of Flowers and Reflections, among the loveliest on the Island, now glow in new radiance. The walls are largely in a rich middle tone of coral red, with accents of gray-blue and cream. Across the lagoon the San Francisco-State group stands out in a delicate primrose yellow, while the once-colorless Pacific House is completely coated in coral red. Perhaps you are bored with this outline of an endless palette of color–but the new color scheme will be the most-talked-of feature of the 1940 Exposition, and this is a pre-view.

Next most-talked-of feature will be Billy Rose's Aquacade, so we headed for the ex-International Hall to have a look at construction activities. On the way we ran into the final judgings for Miss Streamline and Miss California, and it took a little time to pull my cameraman away. The girls were all very pretty, but the contest was a bit complicated by wet grounds and a cold wind. Fortunately, blue doesn't photograph, or the contestants would all look like Indians in the newsreel.

I was standing right in front of one cute youngster (So it was your cameraman who held you up-Ed.) who had evidently given up all hope–when she was suddenly announced as Miss California. I never saw such a mixture of surprise and ecstatic pleasure on a human face before. There's always a Cinderella touch to beauty contests and the golden coach had come for her.

Getting back to Billy Rose–though half-clad girls are no digression in any story of that flesh-opera maestro–the new Aquacade plant is really astonishing. Here is one undertaking that a press agent can call colossal and still be guilty of understatement. So gigantic is the auditorium that a gang of tractors, bulldozers and scrapers excavating the 50x150 swimming pool were almost lost in the gloom. First time I ever saw a major excavating job going on indoors! Scaffoldings are going up to hold the lighting platforms –and Lincoln Dickey says there will be more spotlights used to light this show than were ever gathered under one roof before, The seats are not in yet. There will be 7,000 of them and it seems to me that all will have an excellent view of the stage and tank.

Over on the Gayway construction is just getting started but already many new buildings have appeared. The former back street (known as "Siberia" to the unfortunates who showed there last year) has been eliminated and the entire amusement section is concentrated within a compact area, the three main entrances to which are newly decorated with enormous and muchly-neoned gateways. One new show is a counterpart of a New York Fair attraction; visitors will see bathing girls sealed in blocks of ice. What that proves, except that you can't chill a hot number, I'm hanged if I know. A streetwide neon sign reading "Sally Rand in Person" seems to have been freshly painted, so I presume our feathered belle will be with us once again. More power to her; she's the Stella of our times.

Down around the Counties Group corner of the Island there is much activity and many indications of new construction. Exhibitors in that area felt that they were neglected last year and you may be sure that the state's large appropriation for the purpose will result in many new attractions southeast of the lagoon.

That just about covers this report of a day on Treasure Island, except to remark that the trees, shrubs and flower beds look much more verdant and healthy than of yore. Our recent spell of liquid sunshine seems to have had a beneficial effect. However many days you spent on the Island last year, better plan to allow double the time this year. You will find the Fair itself far more beautiful, the show more exciting and the tariff more reasonable. The Fair in Forty boys have done themselves proud.

IN: San Francisco Life
May 1940

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