Fair Park: Wikis


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Coordinates: 32°46′38.7″N 96°45′31.3″W / 32.777417°N 96.758694°W / 32.777417; -96.758694 Dallas Fair Park is a 277-acre (1.12 km2) recreational and educational complex located in Dallas, Texas (USA). The complex is registered as a Dallas Landmark, National Historic Landmark and is home to nine museums, six performance facilities, a lagoon, and the largest Ferris wheel in North America. Many of the buildings on the complex were constructed for the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936 which drew over six million visitors. Most of the buildings built for the exposition still survive and Fair Park is recognized as a significant example of Art Deco architecture.

Texas Centennial Exposition Buildings (1936--1937)
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
The Centennial Building in Fair Park
Fair Park is located in Texas
Location: Bounded by Texas and Pacific RR, Pennsylvania, Second, and Parry Aves
Dallas, Texas
Coordinates: 32°46′55″N 96°45′56″W / 32.78194°N 96.76556°W / 32.78194; -96.76556Coordinates: 32°46′55″N 96°45′56″W / 32.78194°N 96.76556°W / 32.78194; -96.76556
Area: 277 acres (1.12 km2)[1]
Built/Founded: 1936
Architect: Dahl, George L.; Et al.
Architectural style(s): Art Deco
Added to NRHP: September 24, 1986[2]
Designated NHL: September 24, 1986[3]
NRHP Reference#: 86003488



The site was established as an eighty acre fairground on the outskirts of East Dallas for the Dallas State Fair in 1886. In 1904 after a fire and financial loss by the fair association, voters approved the "Reardon Plan," which strove to keep the site out of the hands of real-estate developers. [4] It became Dallas' second public park and became known as "Fair Park."

A milestone year in the history of Fair Park was 1936, when the Texas Centennial Exposition was held on the site. In preparation for the six-month long event, the appearance of the park was dramatically altered by architect George Dahl and consulting architect Paul Cret. The park was transformed from an early twentieth century fairground into the Art Deco showcase it is today. While many of the exposition's buildings were meant to be temporary, several have survived and are now restored. Over the years the park was expanded to its current 277 acres.

Fair Park was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986 [1][3] and in 1988 administration of the park was transferred to the Dallas Parks Department. Today, the cultural facilities and annual events attract 7+ million visitors each year.

Historic Core

The historic core of Fair Park contains significant examples of art deco exposition architecture constructed for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. Many of these buildings have been restored and are most actively used during annual festivals such as the State Fair of Texas. It has been called "one of the most spectacular public spaces in the United States."[5]

The Hall of State

Hall of State

Built in 1936 at the astronomical price of $1.2 million USD, the Hall of State, formerly the State of Texas Building, was the most expensive per unit area of any structure built in Texas and the centerpiece of the Texas Centennial Exposition. It is considered the best example of Art Deco architecture in Texas. The Hall of State is the terminus of the Esplanade of State. It currently houses the Dallas Historical Society.

Beyond its monumental entrance and limestone exterior is its use of art to express the history, culture and geography of Texas. A team of international, national and regional artists – including several winners of the prestigious Prix de Rome – assembled to augment the Art Deco architecture. That collaborative effort produced some of the most splendid, and awe-inspiring interior spaces in the United States.[5]

Parry Avenue Entrance

This symbolic entrance to Fair Park is the largest of the four original Texas Centennial Exposition entry gates. The striking 85-foot-high pylon greeted the hordes of pedestrians who accessed the 1936 event from the streetcar terminus on Parry Avenue. The base of the pylon displays a sculptural frieze by Texas Artist Buck Winn. [5] The entrance was restored in 2009 and is adjacent to DART's Green Line Fair Park Station.


Developed along the existing layout of the State Fair grounds, the esplanade was the principal axis of the Texas Centennial Exposition. Monumental facades and projecting porticos were added onto existing State Fair exhibition halls on each side of a 700-foot-long reflecting pool.

The porticoes establish the visual framework of the Esplanade and accentuate the grand perspective leading up to the Hall of State. Monumental artwork deftly combines with additional site features to complete the visually complex – and dramatic – spectacle.[5] The esplanade was restored in 2009 and new fountains have been added.

The Women's Museum: An Institute for the Future

This was Dallas's first municipal coliseum. It was constructed by the State Fair primarily for livestock shows and was also used for musical entertainment throughout the year. In 1935, Texas Centennial Exposition architect George Dahl renovated the building into the exposition’s Administration Building.

The central arched opening, or entrado, of this elevation contains two key pieces of artwork. The Texas-themed mural is by Italian artist Carlo Ciampaglia. The sculpture – the "Spirit of the Centennial" – is by Raoul Josset.[5]

In 2000, adaptive reuse of the building resulted in the nation’s first museum devoted to the historical achievements and contributions of women. [6]

D.A.R. Building

This modest imitation of Mount Vernon served as the Conoco Travel Bureau Hospitality House during the 1936 exposition. It now hosts the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.[5]

Museum of the American Railroad

The collection of railroad locomotives and passenger cars sits on the site of a similar exhibit of outdoor transportation that took place during the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition.[5]

Centennial Building and Automobile Building

The Centennial Building originally debuted in 1905 as the first steel-and-masonry exhibition building at the fairgrounds. George Dahl’s renovation in 1936 included three new monumental porticos built as part of a frontal expansion of the building.

Dahl made similar architectural gestures on the opposite side of the Esplanade, where he also incorporated an earlier exhibit hall into the new axial ground plan. This building, however, burned after the exposition. In 1948, the Automobile Building replaced it.

The design for the two original buildings included a giant mural under each portico by Carlo Ciampaglia (on the Centennial Building) and Pierre Bourdelle (on the Automobile Building). The cameo reliefs are by Bourdelle. In front of each portico, monumental sculptures by Laurence Tenney Stevens or Raoul Josset represent the six flags that have flown over Texas since Spanish exploration in 1519.[5]

Artists recreated the original murals on the Automobile Building in 1999 and restored the original murals on the Centennial Building in 2000.

Food & Fiber Building and Embarcadero Building

George Dahl consolidated the livestock and agricultural facilities of the exposition on the north side of the Cotton Bowl. The main axial approach into this "Agrarian" district uses the matching porticos of the Food & Fiber Building and the Embarcadero Building as objects in the foreground to frame the view of, and focus attention on, a distant pylon.[5]

Workers completed restoration of the Food & Fiber Building in 1999 and conservation of its mural in 2000.

Tower Building

The 179-foot-tall triangular tower of the original "U.S. Government Building" marked the geographic center of the Texas Centennial Exposition. It also stood in splendid, isolated contrast to the fair’s predominantly horizontal sprawl. Workers completed exterior restoration of this structure – now called the Tower Building – in 1999. This restoration included artist Raoul Josset's gilded, stylized eagle sculpture and a bas-relief promenade of Texas history by Julian Garnsey.[5]

Cultural District

Many Dallas cultural institutions call Fair Park home. Several of the buildings were constructed for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, loosely organized around a naturalistic water feature named The Lagoon.

Old Mill Inn

The Old Mill Inn was one of the few Texas Centennial Exposition buildings not to incorporate Art Deco styling in its design. Clad in fieldstone and incorporating heavy-timber construction, this was the exhibit building for the flour milling industry. It now serves Fair Park as a restaurant.[7]

Magnolia Lounge and (former) Hall of Religion

This little-known project by New York architect William Lescaze introduced European Modernism to Texas in 1936. The design of this hospitality lounge for the Magnolia Petroleum Company included elements commonly found in Art Deco architecture. However, the building’s overall image was radically different from that of any other structure at the Texas Centennial Exposition.

The lounge now serves as the offices for the Friends of Fair Park and also contains the Margo Jones Theater. Site of Theatre '47, the first professional, regional theater company in the United States, the small performing space pays tribute to the visionary founder of America's regional theater movement. Immediately adjacent to the Magnolia Lounge is the former Hall of Religion, future home to Texas! Music Center.[7]

African American Museum

The current museum building occupies virtually the same site as the Texas Centennial Exposition’s Hall of Negro Life.[7][8]

The Leonhardt Lagoon

The Leonhardt Lagoon

South of the Midway, George Dahl arranged Dallas’s future cultural institutions informally around a tranquil lagoon. This offered Texas Centennial exposition visitors peaceful respite and a romantic, naturalistic counterpoint to the intense activity of the exposition. A major earth sculpture became part of the Leonhardt Lagoon in 1986.[7]

Museum of Nature and Science

The westernmost building of the museum was once the Museum of Natural History and was design for the Texas Centennial Exposition as a monolithic, rectangular box with little architectural detail. The entrance features three vertical window bays with decorative aluminum mullions. Flanking it are paired pilasters with shell-motif capitals. The rest of the building is clad in limestone. In 1988, workers excavated the northeast corner of the building, creating a series of landscaped terraces.

The easternmost building of the museum originally housed the Museum of Fine Arts (now the Dallas Museum of Art) and later The Science Place. It is a spartan building clad in Texas limestone and shellstone built as the centerpiece of the Lagoon area. It is located on axis with the plaza and entry to Fair Park Stadium (now the Cotton Bowl) on the opposite shore. In 1996, the museum's TI Founders IMAX Theater addition gave the building a new monumental entry.[7]

Fair Park Band Shell

The concentric plaster arches of the Band Shell comprise an essentially Art Deco composition. Elements of the Streamline Moderne style are present in the reinforced concrete backstage building. Lighting pylons surround the sloping 5,000-seat amphitheater.[7]

Texas Discovery Gardens

This was the original Horticulture Building for the Texas Centennial Exposition. It has since been altered by exterior renovations and additions, including the minimalist glass Blachly Conservatory. In the gardens behind the main structure is a model home that the Portland Cement Company originally built for the exposition.[7]

The Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park and Education Annex

The aquarium represents a highly complex building type still in its infancy in the 1930s. Many of the building technological advances, including the use of natural light over the exhibit tanks, are not apparent on the building’s exterior. Both Streamline Moderne and Zigzag Moderne elements are present on the building's entrance. The expanses of blank wall include a series of alternating brick planes and sculptural panels by artist Allie Tennant. Adjacent to the building is the aquarium’s Education Annex. This served as the Christian Science Monitor Pavilion during the Texas Centennial Exposition. Friends of Fair Park[7]

The Cotton Bowl

Cotton Bowl

The Cotton Bowl stadium was built in 1932 below-grade and originally known as the Fair Park Bowl. Subsequent expansions now put the capacity at 92,200. The Cotton Bowl Classic was played at the stadium from 1937-2009. Annually during the State Fair of Texas, the stadium hosts the AT&T Red River Rivalry game between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma and the Southwest Airlines State Fair Classic game between Grambling State University (Louisiana) and Prairie View A&M University. The Cotton Bowl was also home to the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1970 until their move to Texas Stadium in Irving. In 1994, the Cotton Bowl again expanded to host World Cup soccer; a 2008 expansion brought capacity to more than 90,000. It also hosts soccer tournaments, concerts and other festivals throughout the year. [7]

The Music Hall at Fair Park

The Music Hall, built in Spanish colonial revival style, was the General Motors Building during the Centennial Exposition. It underwent extensive remodeling in 1972. It was home of the Dallas Opera until 2009 and is the current home for Dallas Summer Musicals.[7]


  • The Texas Star, opened in 1985, is the largest Ferris wheel in North America.
  • The Texas Skyway, opened in 2007, is an art deco-styled gondola ride that transports visitors 65 feet above the ground for a ride that is one-third of a mile long. [9]

Other structures

  • Located on the Fair Park grounds is WRR, Dallas's city-owned classical music broadcaster, which has the distinction of being the oldest commercially operated radio station in Texas, and second oldest in the United States.
  • SuperPages.com Center is an amphitheater that hosts large concerts.
  • Fair Park is home to the Texas State Vietnam Memorial.
  • Fair Park is home to the City of Dallas "Drunk Tank".

Annual Festivals

  • The complex's signature event is the annual State Fair of Texas, the largest state fair in the United States, which has been held at the location since 1886. The fair currently lasts 24 days and begins in the last Friday in September and runs to the third Sunday in October.
  • One of the largest Irish festivals in the country, referred to locally as North Texas Irish Festival, takes place the first weekend in March each year.
  • Fair Park Fourth is the annual Independence Day celebration for the City of Dallas.

Other Notable Events

Dallas Grand Prix Circuit
Circuit Fair Park.svg
Location Fair Park, Dallas, Texas, USA
Time zone GMT -6
Major events 1984 Dallas Grand Prix
Length 2.424 mi (3.901 km)
Turns 21
Lap record 1:45.353, 133.300 km/h (Niki Lauda, McLaren, 1984)

Restoration and Future

The City of Dallas, State Fair of Texas, and Friends of Fair Park have plans to further restore Fair Park to its 1936 appearance and schedule programing to promote the park.

Many of the existing art deco buildings have been restored visually to their 1936 appearance and upgraded to modern building standards. In anticipation of DART's light rail service in September 2009 the historic Parry Avenue entrance gates were restored in 2009. The Esplanade fountain and several adjoining lost sculptures are being reconstructed and will feature a dramatic light and water show also scheduled to open in 2009. Future plans include reconstruction of several demolished 1936 structures, renovation of remaining buildings and addition of green space. The Hall of State and aquarium buildings began renovations in 2009.

Summer Place Park, a summer amusement park, is planned to open in May 2010.[10] In addition to current midway rides, the new 500-foot-tall “Top of Texas Centennial Tower” will be an observation tower whose base will be home to a new museum showcasing the State Fair and Texas Centennial Exposition collection.

In 2007 the old neighborhoods just north of Fair Park such as J.D. Herndon's subdivision and the Richard Lagow Estates have begun to be revitalized with new housing. A good example of this can be seen across from the Northern ticket entrance to the State Fair on Fletcher Street where duplexes are being built by Jubilee Park Properties.


  • Fair Park is easily accessible from I-30, the major east-west interstate through Dallas.
  • Fair Park is served by several bus routes by DART.
  • DART's Green Line connects Fair Park to southeast and downtown Dallas with Fair Park Station and MLK Jr. Station. During the State Fair of Texas DART runs "special event" trains from the Red Line and Blue Line to Fair Park Station.[11]


  • Rob Walker (October, 1984). "1st Dallas Grand Prix: Cool Keke". Road & Track, 178-182.
  • Mike S. Lang (1992). Grand Prix!: Race-by-race account of Formula 1 World Championship motor racing. Volume 4: 1981 to 1984. Haynes Publishing Group. ISBN 0-85429-733-2

External links


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