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He also installed “dial-a-view,” which let occupants pick the murals they would see through the windows.
A wayward volleyball—actually an old soccer ball, which serves the same purpose—hits the hard ground with a thud. But can that be enough to stop the growth of trees? The Unisphere, a stainless steel globe that came to symbolize the fair, towered twelve stories tall.
Greenery envelops most of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, but not here, where patches of brown grass sprout between large swaths of exposed dirt. Might something be down there, obstructing their existence? Elevators dubbed Sky Streaks whisked passengers 226 feet to the observation deck of the hulking New York State Pavilion.
Only two were available at the Underground Home: an eight-page brochure on underground living, few of which survive today because few were probably bought, and an LP record by Grammy Award-winning singer Johnny Mann, a friend of Henderson, the underground home aficionado and Avon board member.
Also sold, of course, were the homes themselves, at the hefty price of $80,000 each, more than half a million dollars by today’s standards.
Families hurried to build fallout shelters, but many of them were bland and cramped.
Swayze began tinkering with spacious underground homes suitable for year-round living.
The Underground Home was billed as “sub-urban,” in keeping with the clever marketing that permeated the fair. A glance at a bookshelf inside the home underscored the chief motivation for buying such a dwelling.
One book was titled “Our New Life with the Atom.” Another was “Foreign Policy Without Fear.” The Miami News ran a telling caption with its profile of the home’s interior designer, Marilynn Motto: “Her designs are enough to calm a subterranean dweller during an H-bombing.” These reminders of a nuclear age seemed out of place at a fair with so many bright visions of “the world of tomorrow today.” The fair embraced a theme of “peace through understanding,” while the Underground Home was most appealing to visitors who didn’t think peace would last very long.
But visitors, it turned out, were unwilling to radically alter their lifestyles and plunk down so much money on what amounted to an experiment.
Near the end of the fair’s first season, the New York Times reported that not a single underground home had been sold.
“The idea of an underground home in ’61 or ’62 was to protect you from the Soviets—the evil, nasty Soviets,” Dr. “Along comes the Cuban Missile Crisis, and you realize we can blow ourselves off the planet.” Swayze deemed his exhibit a success.