Postcard of the Coca-Cola pavilion, published by Dexter Press*


The visitor to this exhibit samples five of the most spectacular places in the world, from an Alpine peak to a tropical forest - complete with sights, sounds, climate, and aromas. The scenes are created in an eliptical building two stories high enclosing a large court. In the center of the court is the Coca-Cola Tower, a three-sided 120-foot spire containing the world's largest electronic carillon, with 610 bells.  It strikes the hours at the Fair and is played in concerts by famous carillonneurs.  Among the other attractions are a special amateur radio center and a USO lounge and information center for servicemen.
  

Admission: free.


Highlights

"World of Refreshment." During a 15-minute stroll, visitors pass through the following re-creations of exotic places:
  • A bustling Hong Kong street filled with colorful shops, ends at the shore of a Fragrant Harbor with its view of Kowloon on the mainland of China in the distance.
  • A serene Indian garden, where fountains softly play, has the beautiful Taj Mahal in the background.
  • A Bavarian ski lodge is located in a mountain setting; through the windows can be seen the Bavarian Alps.
  • A Cambodian forest echos to the chatter of monkeys and contains the 12 Century temple at Angkor Wat.
  • Rio de Janeiro, glittering at night, is viewed from a cruise shop anchored in the harbor.  The interior of the ship is reproduced with careful authenticity.  Salt spray is in the air.
Ham Radio.  Members of the American Radio Relay League operate a superb three-position sending and receiving station that is capable of reaching all the way around the globe.  The station is available for licensed operators to use.

Servicemen's Canteen.  A lounge of the United Service Organizations is linked by phone to the USO's Times Square Center.  Attendants help servicemen obtain tickets to attractions in the New York area; in addition, they supply travel information.
**


The "World of Refreshment" walk-through attraction was a highly-detailed series of scenes which allowed the visitor to experience exotic destinations at their own pace.  Several news outlets reported it as being one of the highlights of the Fair, citing Coca Cola's superb attention to detail.  Sights, sounds, and even smells were re-created for the viewer's enjoyment.  At the end of the walk-through portion of the exhibit, visitors were introduced to Coca Cola products sold around the world...much in the same way today's "World of Coke" exhibit in Atlanta does.

During the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair's two seasons, the 120 foot tall Schulmerich Carillons "Carillon Americana", was played by Official Carillonneur John Klein, who had played at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair and was the Official Carillonneur at the Seattle World's Fair just two years prior.

At the time of the Fair, the 610 bell Coca-Cola carillon was the largest in the world.  It was also one of the first electronic carillons ever built.  In order to accommodate such a large number of bells in one instrument, the carillon used tiny "rods of traditional cast bronze which produce pure bell tones when struck with miniature hammers."  All of these bronze rods were housed in large cabinets which were controlled by electronic relays wired directly to a keyboard at the base of the tower.  From this keyboard, the Carillonneur could select and play a variety of  bell types, including "Gothic", "Flemish" and more...each having a unique sound profile.  To deliver the sound from these bell rods (some the size of a #2 pencil) to the pavilion's visitors, some 60 speakers were mounted inside the carillon's signature tower.

While the Coca-Cola pavilion, with it's beautiful design, amazing walk-through attraction, Ham Radio operation, and majestic bell tower weren't nearly as popular or memorable as their competitor's attraction, it served a very large number of World's Fair visitors and has a special place in many peoples' hearts.


At the conclusion of The Fair, the tower and carillon were carefully dismantled and shipped to Stone Mountain Park near Coca-Cola's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. There, the tower was redesigned slightly, a few extra bell cabinets with additional bells were added, and the whole thing was installed in a beautiful forest setting.  The Coca-Cola Company donated the now 732-bell carillon to the park for all to enjoy.

During The Fair, the keyboard was displayed in a glass enclosure at the base of the tower so everyone could watch the Carillonneur play.  For the installation at Stone Mountain Park, the glass enclosure was separated from the tower and placed on the side of a hill with its own viewing area overlooking a lush, lakeside setting.

The bell cabinets, which were housed on the second floor of the eliptical building during The Fair, were relocated to a climate controlled room directly beneath the glass keyboard enclosure during the Stone Mountain Park installation.  

The redesigned bell tower was installed on a small peninsular island at the end of a narrow walkway. Surrounded by trees, the updated design blends almost seemlessly with its new surroundings, thus adding to the beauty of the park.  Visitors can walk a path from the keyboard enclosure to the tower and stand under it should they wish to view the dedication plaque.


The remainder of the pavilion, which included samples of Coca-Cola products from other countries, lives on (in a way) at the company's "World of Coke" exhibit in Atlanta, Georgia.  The detailed scenes from around the world which were part of the Coca-Cola pavilion's World's Fair exhibit, however, have been lost to time and are no longer available for viewing.


This remnant of the World's Fair is regularly maintained by the park's operators and lovingly operated by the current Carillonneur.


I visited the Coca Cola Carillon in early July of 2016.  It was a side trip during a visit with friends who lived in the nearby town of Athens, Georgia.  Being World's Fair fans, themselves, it didn't take much to talk them into going to visit the Carillon with me.

After entering the park and driving along winding roads through the lush, forested park, we arrived at the small parking area which serves the Carillon concert viewing area.  The viewing area is on the main road which encircles the park, but it is in an area where there is very little else to see.  In a way, it's one of the "hidden gems" of Stone Mountain Park... perhaps a little too hidden.

Aside from one car in the "Reserved for Carillonneur" space, we were the only car in the lot.
We began walking down the path through the woods towards a trainquil, covered and stone-walled area.

This crescent-shaped area contains terraced levels of natural stone and concrete which serves as seating and wraps around a circular enclosure made of glass.  Inside, the Carillon's keyboard is clearly visible from any seat in the area.

Looking out through an opneing in the trees onto the area beyond the seating area is a serene lake and a peninsula. Poking out above the trees in the distance at the end of the peninsula like something out of The Lord of the Rings, is the Carillon's bell tower.

Inside the enclosure immediately in front of us, the brown and beige Carillon keyboard sits on Coca-Cola red carpet.  As we ogled the space, we realized we were looking at a slice of the Fair with our own eyes...and two of us got a little teary at the sight.

The ceiling in the room is an up-lit expanse of white, divided into pizza-like slices by white supports which radiate out from a central point to become the columns holding up the circular roof.


Shortly after our arrival, a spry little woman appeared out of nowhere and proceeded to let herself into the keyboard enclosure.  We would later learn that this is Mabel Sansing Sharp, who has played for over 30 years and is only the third Official Carillonneur to play the Coca Cola Carillon.  She sat down quietly at the keyboard and in moments, the air was filled with the sounds of the bells.  We looked out over the lake to the island where the tower peeks out over the tops of the trees like something out of Lord of the Rings and listened as the music was carried to us on the breeze.

Following a patirotic concert of American standards, Mabel emerged from the enclosure and came over to chat with us. We explained that we were World's Fair fans and her face lit up.  

She asked us to wait, and proceeded to go fetch a very thick three-ring binder from the enclosure.  Inside were photos from the Fair, the time when it was installed at Stone Mountain Park, photos of the bell cabinets (complete with an actual bell rod taped to the page!), and some additional news clippings which featured the Carillon.

Each of the Carillon's bells is a finely-tuned polished brass rod, roughly the same width as a #2 pencil, connected to an electronic system which amplifies the sound it makes when a tiny little hammer hits it.

The sound is then transmitted by wire to one of over 60 specialized speakers in the bell tower.  What we hear as observers is the actual tone the rod makes, reproduced in the highest fidelity.

After a lengthy discussion where she patiently answered all our questions and told us a few of her favorite stories (did you know the Carillon is a "she" and that she doesn't like stormy weather?), she invited us into the enclosure for some up-close-and-personal time with the keyboard.  

After telling us all about the various classifications of bells and the different types of sounds they make, she invited me to play a few notes on it.

I may have cried a little bit... I'm not going to lie.

Mabel is an absolute treasure trove of knowledge and embodies the spirit of the Carillon.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit her or the Carillon at Stone Mountain Park, you really must do so... and let her know "the guy with the World's Fair bow tie" sent you!

Following our extremely rewarding and informative visit with Mabel, we took a walk down the path to the bell tower.  

It's a peaceful area, with benches along the walkway in case you'd like to just stop and admire the natural setting.  On either side, the surrounding lake laps up against the stone retaining walls and a fresh breeze crosses over from one side to the other.  With no other public areas in the immediate area, it's quiet... and the only thing you'll hear are the sounds of birds until the next Carillon concert begins.

At the end of the walkway, you reach a small area on the tip of the peninsula where the Carillon's bell tower and dedication plaque stand proud.

There are elements of the tower's original design still evident here.  The tall, vertical cedar slats, the tripod-style metal columns (though now set up in a tiered setup) harken back to the tower's original design at the Coca-Cola pavilion.

Under the tower, a brass dedication plaque is mounted to the stone base.

This dedication plaque, a twin of which sits in a case near the keyboard enclosure, reads "This 732 bell CARILLON AMERICANA, was originally erected as a part of The Coca-Cola Company's exhibit at the New York World's Fair of 1964/1965.  It was presented to the State of Georgia by The Coca-Cola Company as a symbol of friendship and as an instrument for the enjoyment and edification of all visitors to the Stone Mountain Memorial Park."

This remnant of the New York World's Fair 1964/1965 is a living tribute to the joy the Fair brought during its two-year run.  To experience it in person is something I wish for everyone who considers themselves a fan!


Enjoy this short video of Carillonneur Mabel Sansing Sharp performing during my visit to the carillon in July 2016.

When the area in the foreground gets dark, look off in the distance to the left through the trees.  Though the tower is way off in the distance, the sound was loud and clear from our vantage point in the viewing area. There are no additional speakers installed there...the crisp, clear, and warm sound you are hearing is coming from the tower itself.




The significance of this relic may be lost on the current operators of the park, as they do not actively promote the carillon to park visitors in any of their maps or pamphlets. Even their website has a relatively blank page about this attraction.  This means that while visitors throughout the park can hear the carillon concerts, few people know where the music comes from or that they may enjoy the concerts (where they may watch the carillonneur) from the comfort of a beautiful shaded viewing area overviewing the lake and the island where the carillon now resides.

When you visit the park, be sure to mention at the ticket booth that you are there to visit the carillon. Should you be asked to take a survey during your visit, be sure to specifically mention your interest in the carillon. When posting photos to social media, be sure to tag Stone Mountain Park so they will see your post.  You can also express your interest in the carillon by contacting the park here.

Anything you can do to draw positive attention to the carillon could result in increased promotion, usage, or maintenance budget.

Most importantly, let the carillonneur know you are there to see this still-operating attraction from the World's Fair. They will enjoy knowing that their work to preserve and operate the carillon is appreciated.  If Mabel is there, she'll even break out the history book and share a few amazing stories with you!


Giving Thanks.

The following individuals contributed towards making it possible for me to visit and document this remnant of the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair.  I'd like to take a moment to personally thank them for helping make my dream of personally visiting the remaining pavilions of the World's Fair come true.

Geoff Terry
Sonya Quiles
Sweet Little Baby Clementine
Mabel Sansing Sharp

This page is hereby dedicated to them.

*Postcard Image - Scanned from the personal collection of Jason "Tiki" Tackett.
**Official Guidebook Information
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Official Guide New York World's Fair 1964/1965 (c.1964 Time Inc.)


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