Underground World Home

Underground World Home was a home designed for the 1964 New York World's Fair by architect Jay Swayze. The home-exhibit was in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens and appeared to be a luxury bomb shelter which was marketed as secure and safe.

Underground World Home
Underground World Home exhibit.png
Underground World Home exhibit
General information
LocationFlushing Meadow Park
Town or cityQueens
Demolished15 March 1966
CostExhibit: $1 million[1]
OwnerGirard B. Henderson
Technical details
MaterialConcrete and steel
Floor count1
Floor area6,000 sq ft (560 m2)
Design and construction
Architect(s)Jay Swayze
Other designersInterior designer Marilyn Motto[2]


Living room with lighted landscape mural visible through patio doors

The 1964 World's Fair featured the home which was designed by architect Jay Swayze.[3] Swayze was a promoter of underground living and he lived in his own underground bunker-house in Plainview, Texas which was called the Atomitat.[4][5]

Fairgoers could tour the home for the price of one dollar.[3] It was a large underground bunker and it was unveiled in 1964 during the Cold War.[6] It was also directly following the Cuban Missile Crisis when Americans were concerned about nuclear war.[7] The company "Underground World Homes" was owned by Avon investor and millionaire Girard B. Henderson. He was convinced that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. would escalate their conflict and it would lead to nuclear war. In addition to the underground home, there was also an exhibit sponsored by Henderson called: "Why Live Underground?"[8] In the brochure for the Underground World Home, it was touted as a place of comfort, security and safety.[3]

The exhibitors at the fair were required to dismantle their exhibits after the fair. The home was 3 feet below surface and it is thought that because of the cost involved with removal, the home was simply buried and lost to history. The architect Swayze wrote a book Underground Gardens & Homes: The Best of Two Worlds, Above and Below but he did not say in the book what happened to the home.[9][7] One researcher searched New York Public Library World's Fair records and found paperwork which said that demolition of the home was completed on 15 March 1966.[10]


October 1963 Underground World Home groundbreaking event (Jay Swayze with shovel)

The home had ten rooms and 6,000 sq ft (560 m2). It featured air conditioning and backlit murals to create the illusion of outdoor lighting.[3] The murals were hand painted by Mrs. Glenn Smith.[11] The architect (Swayze) cited solid research to convince fairgoers that people did not look out their windows 80% of the time and when people did look out their windows, half the time what they saw was undesirable. He stated he could give people better views with murals. The home was billed as Peeping Tom proof, more fun, less expensive and a way to save space above ground.[12]

The walls were 20 in (51 cm) of steel and concrete.[3] The roof of the structure was supported with 18 in (46 cm) steel beams and were rated for a load of two million pounds soil. There were 3 bedrooms. The earth provided the insulation for the building.[13] The home had gypsum board ceilings. There was a "snorkel-like system" which pumped air into the home.[7] Because of the air system the home was said to be dust free.[13]

Inside the entrance there was an 11 by 13-foot entrance hall. There was a 13x23 kitchen-dining area, there was a living room and den which were 20x34 and three bedrooms measuring 16x21, 13x14 and 16x16. To connect the bedrooms there was a gallery measuring 6 feet in width. The model home also had a terrace area replicating outdoor space next to the living room, a second terrace leading to the exit, 12x32 feet wide. And there was a wood-burning fireplace.[14]


In 1964 New York Times reporter Isaac Asimov wondered what the 2014 World's Fair would look like. He called the underground house a "sign of the future" with controlled temperatures which allow occupants to be free from weather.[15] The home was not popular at the fair.[3] One reason may have been because it cost one dollar for an adult, and fifty cents for a child to tour the home.[14] The home was priced at $80,000 (four times the cost of the average home that year) and Swayze did not sell any Underground World Homes at the fair.[3][7]


  1. ^ Living It Up Way Down (Vol. 56, No. 17 ed.). New York, New York: Life Magazine. 24 April 1964. p. 56. Archived from the original on 26 April 2022. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  2. ^ "Model Homes at Fair; Wide Range of Sizes and Shapes Shown In Varying Stages of Completion". New York Times. 23 April 1964. Archived from the original on 26 April 2022. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Bounds, Anna Maria (2021). Bracing for the apocalypse : an ethnographic study of New York's 'prepper' subculture (1st ed.). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415788489. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  4. ^ "Whatever Happened to the Atomitat?". A Gray Media Group, Inc. KCBD. 6 August 2002. Archived from the original on 9 September 2021. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  5. ^ "'Atomitat' Boasts Comforts Of Home". Volume 71. No. 95. Madera Tribune. 26 September 1962. Archived from the original on 26 April 2022. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  6. ^ Pike, David L. (2022). Cold War space and culture in the 1960s and 1980s : the bunkered decades. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 249. ISBN 978-0192846167. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d Hirshon, Nicholas (17 October 2012). "The Secret Spot Hidden Below New York". Narratively. Archived from the original on 16 April 2021. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  8. ^ Porter, Donald J. (2019). A jet powered life : Allen E. Paulson, aviation entrepreneur (Illustrated ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. p. 114. ISBN 978-1476676562. Retrieved 24 April 2022.
  9. ^ Messner, Kate (2015). Up in the garden and down in the dirt. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-1452161365.
  10. ^ Carlson, Jen (20 March 2017). "Is The 1960s World's Fair Underground Home Still There? An Investigation". Archived from the original on 13 August 2021. Retrieved 25 April 2022.
  11. ^ McClure, Wanda (9 March 1964). "Muralist to Feature Work at New York World's Fair". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Archived from the original on 25 April 2022. Retrieved 25 April 2022.
  12. ^ Samuel, Lawrence R. (2010). The end of the innocence : the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. p. 122. ISBN 978-0815609568. Archived from the original on 26 April 2022. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  13. ^ a b "Looking for Pure air, Privacy and Quiet? It's Here, So Come on Down, Underground". The Herald-News. 21 May 1965. Archived from the original on 25 April 2022. Retrieved 25 April 2022.
  14. ^ a b McDonough, Doug (12 October 2013). "Looking Back: 1964 World's Fair featured Swayze underground home". Plainview Herald. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  15. ^ Asimov, Isaac (16 August 1964). "Epilogue - Visit to the World's Fair of 2014". New York Times. Retrieved 24 April 2022.

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