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Wednesday
Jan142015

Would the real Queen of Spain please sit down

At the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, The Spain Pavilion was hailed as the "Jewel of the Fair," by Time magazine, and with good reason. The sleek concrete structure housed precious art from Spain, including works never shown in the U.S. before.

Queen Isabella at the fair. Courtesy of Randy TreadwayOne of those impressive works of art was the six foot statue of Spain's Queen Isabella. The bronze sculpture by Jose Luis Sanchez was a striking work. The sculpture watched over visitors from atop a pedestal giving the work a sense of size and scale well beyond its actual height.

After the fair ended, the beloved Spain Pavilion was moved to St. Louis. St Louis' mayor Alfonso Cervantes intended for the pavilion to serve as the third leg of an attraction trio including the Gateway Arch and the then-new Busch Stadium. Much of the art made the trip to St. Louis too, including the Queen. Or did it?

The "Queen" as seen in St. Louis in 2011 In 2011 when we visited St. Louis to shoot for the film, the Spain Pavilion had long ago been turned into a hotel. It turned out people did come to St. Louis for the Arch, and Busch Stadium was a draw, but all the people visiting those sites were looking for a place to stay, not Spanish art.

Today, the remains of the Spain Pavilion serve as the lobby for the Hilton at the Ballpark. We knew the interior of the building had been greatly changed in a recent renovation, removing any trace of the building's past. However, I had received a tip that while we were at the hotel we should ask if we could "see the queen." I posed this peculiar question to a maintenance worker at the hotel. He smiled and led us to a closet/storage area. In the back corner, there she was: The Queen of Spain.

A key piece of priceless art was languishing by a mop and bucket in a dark dank corner of hotel. However things aren't always what they seem... We worked the story of the Queen into our movie, opining on the condition and location of the artifact. Only later did we learn that the Queen in the closet is in all likelihood, a fake.

The original Queen Isabella Statute today in D.C. Or is it???In 1966, outside the Office of American States in Washington D.C., a statue of Queen Isabella was dedicated. The statue - six feet tall, and bronze - was said to have come from the fair. And indeed, a careful examination of the statue shows greater detail than the "imposter" queen in St. Louis.

So then it's settled: The real Queen is in D.C.

Well, probably, but...

Queen Isabella Statue, Mobile AL. Courtesy bobindrums flickr 

In a park in Mobile, Alabama, yet another statue of the queen is found. And this one claims to be from the World's Fair...

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