JFK's Retro-Futuristic Pan Am Terminal Is Slowly Being Demolished
Despite some last ditch efforts to save it, the JFK airport's 1960 Googie-style Pan Am terminal is currently being destroyed. Once an important symbol of tomorrowism, this iconic Worldport™ will soon find itself a pile of retro-futuristic rubble.
First opened to the public on May 24, 1960, Terminal 3 was designed by the firm Tippets-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton and immediately became an important backdrop for this particular golden age of futurism — as much a promise of things to come as a building that existed in the here and now. The terminal was used in print advertisements to evoke a feeling of Jet Age romanticism, even for products that were firmly planted on the ground.
This 1962 ad from Chevrolet promised pedal pushers of the original Jetsons era that driving an Impala was something akin to flying in a jet. Advertisers selling a diverse array of products — from pens to refrigerators to cosmetics — were all clamoring to associate themselves with techno-utopian, leisure society thinking. This car wouldn't just give you a smooth ride, it was "jet-smooth."
From the 1962 Impala ad featuring the Pan Am Terminal as its backdrop:
Nudge this baby's "go-pedal" on an open stretch of road and you'll see what Jet-smooth means. Nothing so eager to eat up miles ever went so easy. And so quiet, too, because working with those Full Coil springs are some 700 sound and vibration filters sprinkled liberally throughout the chassis and handsome Body by Fisher. There's plenty more to tempt a traveler, too. Room for roaming with stretchout space to spare. Deep- well trunk that holds odd-size objects and loads at bumper level. Rich appointments a car priced like this never had before. Brainy ideas like parallel-action windshield wipers that clear more glass. The kind of durability Chevrolet's noted for with longer wearing bonded brake linings... long-life zinc- and aluminum-coated muffler. . . new rust-resisting steel front fender underskirts. What we mean, this one is built for keeps—which is another reason Chevrolet traditionally brings top trade-in over any other full-sized car in its field. Try out a Jet-smooth Chevrolet at your dealer's now. Then just try to be satisfied with anything less...
Worldport™, despite being a symbol of the future, would prove ill-suited for our modern world. The terminal's circular design didn't lend itself to the jetways that would emerge in the decades after its birth. And as far as our evolving national security apparatus was concerned, its design was a tiny square hole for the TSA's enormous circular peg.
The terminal was officially closed on May 24, 2013 (exactly 53 years after it first opened) and is now being taken apart, slowly but surely. Some estimates say that it won't be completely gone until 2015. So if you find yourself flying through JFK in the next year, take a gander at the old Terminal 3 — a ghost of futures past.