EGOland Florida is the newest amusement park in Florida and the largest LEGOland theme park in the world. The centerpiece is an incredible display of more than 20 million Lego blocks featuring notable architecture and landmarks of New York, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Miami, San Francisco and a LOT more. There are more than 45 buildings (some as tall as fifteen feet high) in New York City alone! While many visitors will stroll the pathways and recognize the Empire State Building or misidentify that The Bronx Zoo si here or that what they think is the Supreme court is something else.
Most of the story simply goes overlooked even by the most careful visitor, ultimately overwhelmed by the presentation. I've thoroughly researched more than one hundred of the models, and am well underway to creating the international catalog. Featured here are a few of the most interesting stories behind the buildings you'll see. Many of these you may not recognize at first, but you will be amazed at what you see.
The white vertical stripes of 1251 6th Avenue, officially part of Rockefeller Center when completed is the Exxon Building, part of the Rockefeller's family Standard Oil empire. Walking down 6th Ave it is an almost identical twin to three of its neighbors. You'll notice on the model the designers have added a little bit of whimsy and movement in the form of a windows washer scaffold with a small motor that raises and lowers the LEGO workers as they go about their work unaware.
While you thought the winder washers were there for a bit of fun, there is a story. The photograph you see was taken by a famous, but now relatively obscure, photographer named Lida Moser. She was a pioneer shooting pictures of street scenes in New York for decades. She's more than 90 now, but throughout her long career took pics for magazines like Life, Look, Esquire and Vogue. Back in the 1970s she documented the construction of the Exxon Building for a book about its construction..
One of her most famous photos is called Judy and the Boys. She now has her own little tribute to her work here built in bricks!
But most people just see a toy window washer.
It's appears on the postcards in the giftshop with its raised stilts, gleaming exterior and sloped roof,; the Citicorp Center has been a fixture of the skyline since the 1970s. At its base, modeled in LEGO is a chunk of gray LEGO about the size of a bowling ball that if anyone notices, leaves them scratching their head.
There were a lot of challenges and problems the engineers and architects needed to solve before they could start building. The first being the church that owned the property on the corner. St Peter's Lutheran Church was committed to the neighborhood, and didn't want to sell its land to build Citigroup. They had been there for years and wouldn't budge. But they offered a deal: Build us a new church and you can have the air rights to build above.
To leave the church on the corner, they'd need to engineer stilts or 'piers',not on the corners like table legs, but in the middle. And tne new church would rise on the corner. So, from a small group of German immigrants that first met in a hay loft above a feed store, to one of the most spectacular, and unobtrusive churches in the world.
But most people look nd see a gray stone.
The MetLife Building, or Pan Am Building as it was called when it was first completed, is among the most recognizable buildings in all of New York. Partly for being the largest office building in the world when it was finished with more than 3 million square feet of space. Partly also, because instead of being tucked on a side street or city block, it sits across Park Avenue in midtown. It's hard to miss from one one of the city to the other.
Pam Am was the largest airline in the world for most of the twentieth century. Their planes flew all over the world. So, perhaps the most spectacular way to fly would have been by helicopter from the top of the Pan Am Building to the Pan Am terminal at JFK airport. This seven minute flight to the airport was common until a fateful spring day in 1977 when a helicopter crashed.
Most people see a helicopter rotor spinning.
No one recoginzes the American Security & Trust Building Immediately. But, you've had a picture of it in your hands before, likely thousands of times over in your lifetime. Like the White House, Capital, Lincoln Memorial, the Treasury, etc; the American Security & Trust Building appears on the back of US paper currency. It's on the back of the ten dollar bill. Its small, kind of down the street and around the corner - but its there. The building is down the street from the Treasury, so when the engraver was designing the artwork, just naturally included it.
The bank isn't around anymore, but they took advantage for many years with the ad slogan, "We're right on the money!"
Most people don't even notice.
The Old Stone House. As small as it is, this must be one of the more colorful buildings in all of LEGOland. It's not that the Lego artist couldn't find the right color Lego pieces, or suffered color blindness while creating it. All those colors represent the field stones used to build this oldest unchanged building in Washington, D.C. All the way back in 1765, there were no stores, so you'd build with what you could find. Field stones are exactly what they sound like, all different sizes and shapes of stones found in a field. When you build a wall, or wall, or house - it looks like this.
Visit a state like Massachusetts and you see places like Old north Church, Old Ironsides, Old State House, Old South Meeting Hall and on and on. So this is Old Stone House, which during its history, it was used as a car dealership. No one ever called it Old Used Car dealership as far as I can tell.
Most people think the designers got a little crazy.
Coit Tower was built with money left to the city by Lillie Coit after she died. Some people think it looks like a nozzle to a giant fire hose! Why would they think that? This is all before there was even a single women firefighters. Well, When Lillie was a little girl she was walking home from school one day. She saw the fire department struggling to push their truck (they all it an apparatus) up Telegraph Hill to fight a fire. There weren’t enough firemen to do the job, so Lillie threw her school books to the ground and pitched in to help. She even yelled to other people to join in and help push. When they got to the top, Lillie even helped put out the fire!
After that Lillie would jump into action at the sound of every fire bell. She would ride with Knickerbocker Engine Co. 5, especially if there was a parade. Through her youth and adulthood Lillie was always recognized as an honorary firefighter.
The tower is on the top of Telegraph hill and surrounded by large paintings, murals and sculpture.
Most people think it looks like a fire hose nozzle.
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While each building is a tangible sculpture with what many would say is a children's toy, the art form itself has grown to include a massive community of sculptors aroudn the world. The variety of science, art and industry that the can be learned from a visit is more compelling than even most museums can provide.
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