Nine World’s Fair Buildings That Are Still Standing Today

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group / Getty Images and Bettmann / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group / Getty Images and Bettmann / Getty Images

The first World’s Fair took place in 1851 in London, England, and since then, the exposition has been hosted all over the world. Year after year, cities build architectural and engineering marvels to wow visitors, but most are usually intended to only be temporary, taken down following the end of the exposition. However, some structures have stood the test of time and still stand to this day, reminding us of the creativity of the past. Read on to learn more.

Memorial Hall, Philadelphia, USA – 1876

Memorial Hall illustration in 1878 and photographed in 2010.
Memorial Hall illustration in 1878 and photographed in 2010. (Photo Credit: The Print Collector / Getty Images and MyLoupe / Universal Images Group / Getty Images)

Memorial Hall was built for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and was used as an art gallery. It is the only major structure from that year’s exhibition to survive to this day. In 1976, the building was dubbed a National Historic Landmark and has since been converted into a children’s museum called Please Touch Museum. 

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France – 1889

The Eiffel Tower 1889 and again in 2024.
The Eiffel Tower seen from Trocadero Palace at the Paris Exposition in 1889 and photographed in 2024. (Photo Credit: Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group / Getty Images and Aurelien Meunier / Getty Images)

One of the most recognizable structures to ever come out of a World’s Fair is the Eiffel Tower. Built for the 1889 Exposition, the arches of the tower served as the entrance to the fair. When it was first built, it was heavily criticized by the community for being a “gigantic black smokestack,” but since its completion has been lauded as an architectural and artistic marvel and has become a symbol of Paris. 

Palace of Fine Arts, Chicago, USA – 1893

The Palace of Fine Arts in 1900 and again in 2023.
The Palace of Fine Arts, pictured in 1900 and again in 2023. (Photo Credit: Buyenlarge / Getty Images and Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

Built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the Palace of Fine Arts in Chicago is the only original building to still be standing on the fair’s grounds. That year also saw the world’s first Ferris wheel, but it is this building, now converted into the Museum of Science and Industry, that has remained. 

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, Barcelona, Spain – 1929

Postcard of the World Fair in Barcelona 1929, and a photo of the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc at night.
A postcard depicting the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc in 1929 and it photographed again in 2022. (Photo Credit: Ken Welsh / Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group / Getty Images and PAU BARRENA / AFP / Getty Images)

The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc was built on the Montjuïc mountain for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. The project was so large that it required over 3,000 workers to see its completion, but hard work allowed the first show to take place the day before the start of the Exposition. Serving as one of the first water displays of its kind, the fountain continues to perform shows every weekend.

The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium – 1958

The Atomium with a parade in front of it in 1958 above another photo of it again in 2023.
The Atomium pictured during the opening parade of the Brussels Expo in 1958 and again in 2023. (Photo Credit: Ron Case / Keystone / Getty Images and Dursun Aydemir / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

Constructed as the centerpiece of the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, the Atomium was a product of the Atomic Age. Built to resemble an atom enlarged 165 billion times, the structure involves nine spheres, all connected, many of which are visitable by tourists. Its tallest point reaches 335 feet tall, and the highest sphere offers a restaurant and a panoramic view of the city.

Space Needle, Seattle, USA – 1962

Aerial view of the Space Needle above a skyline photo of the Space Needle.
The Space Needle, photographed in 1962 and again in 2009. (Photo Credit: Archive Photos / Getty Images and George Rose / Getty Images)

Constructed for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle was inspired by the age of the Space Race. At the time, it stood as the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River at a height of 605 feet, with a UFO-shaped structure at its top. The tower was a huge success at the fair that year and has since become a symbol of the city of Seattle.

Habitat 67, Montreal, Canada – 1967

Habitat 67 pictured in 1967 and again in 2016.
Habitat 67 photographed in 1967 at the World’s Fair and again in 2016. (Photo Credit: Archive Photos / Getty Images and DeAgostini / Getty Images)

Habitat 67, named for that year’s Expo 67 in Montreal, is a housing complex comprised of 354 identical, prefabricated concrete blocks. It stands 12 stories tall, holds 146 residential homes, and is considered an architectural landmark. Celebrated as a breakthrough in affordable housing, the homes within the complex are not considered some of the most expensive homes in the city.

Tower of the Sun, Osaka, Japan – 1970

The Tower of the Sun in 1970 and again in 2017.
The Tower of the Sun pictured in 1970 at the Osaka Expo and again in 2017 in its new location. (Photo Credit: Sankei Archive / Getty Images and Eric Lafforgue / Art In All Of Us / Corbis / Getty Images)

Serving as the symbol of the Expo ’70 that took place in Osaka, Japan, the Tower of the Sun has been preserved and now stands in the Expo Commemoration Park. It features three faces on its front and back, representing the past, present, and future. Visitors of the fair could go inside and climb the 230-foot tower, but after the fair’s closing, it was closed to the public. 

Sunsphere, Knoxville, USA – 1982

The Sunsphere in 1982 and again in 2019.
The Sunsphere, pictured in 1982 and again in 2019. (Photo Credit: Mike DuBose / Hulton Archive / Getty Images and AppalachianCentrist / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

Built in 1982, the Sunsphere still stands 266 feet tall in the World’s Fair Park in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. Looking like a disco ball high in the sky, the gold dust-filled lamination allows the top of the structure to shimmer in the sunlight. This and the man-made pond it sits across from are the only remaining structures built from that year’s World Fair.

Read more: Islands Around the Globe Devoid of Human Life

In the ever-evolving tapestry of history, these enduring structures, born from the vibrant spirit of World’s Fairs, stand as timeless monuments to human ingenuity and creativity, weaving together the past and present in a captivating narrative of architectural resilience. As they continue to grace city skylines and capture imaginations, these iconic landmarks serve as living testaments to the enduring legacy of the world’s most celebrated expositions, inviting us to marvel at their beauty and reflect on the boundless possibilities of human achievement across the ages.