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Friends of Fair Park, 1121 First Ave., Dallas, TX 75210 (214) 426-3400 friends@fairpark.org

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Fair Park’s Art & Architectural Highlights

Explore our National Historic Landmark


DALLAS ARCHITECT GEORGE DAHL SERVED AS GENERAL PLANNER FOR THE 1936 CENTENNIAL EXHIBITION AT FAIR PARK

In its "Places of a Lifetime" series, National Geographic Traveler magazine wrote:

"Fair Park is much more than an assemblage of buildings; it's a district telling dozens of stories from dozens of cultures . . . Architect George Dahl employed this majestic design, infusing it with elements of Southwestern art on existing and new buildings, and the overwhelming success of the centennial – six million people visited, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt – helped pull Dallas out of the Depression.”

Dahl divided the Centennial Exposition into four sub-districts, still evident today:

THE ESPLANADE
The formal, symmetrical Esplanade (1936) features a 700-foot-long reflecting pool flanked by six statues representing the six nations that once ruled Texas. Its architectural highlights (spotlighted in our Esplanade walking tour) include:
  • Parry Avenue Entrance (1936) with its sculptural frieze

  • Dallas' first municipal coliseum (1910, renovated in 1935, adapted in 2000 as The Woman’s Museum, closed in 2011) fronted by the Spirit of the Centennial sculpture (1936)

  • Centennial Hall (1905, renovated in 1936) and its re-claimed murals

  • Automobile Building (1948, replacing a Centennial building that burned to the ground) and its re-created murals

  • Hall of State (1936) with its golden Tejas Warrior sculpture and frieze listing the last names of 59 Texas heroes

  • Tower Building (1936) distinguished by a 179-foot-high tower topped by a stylized gold eagle

THE LAGOON
Fair Park’s naturalistic lagoon has museum buildings set informally around it. Its architectural highlights (spotlighted in our Lagoon walking tour) include:
  • Old Mill Inn (1936) originally a Centennial exhibit for the flour milling industry

  • Magnolia Lounge (1936) which introduced European Modernism to Texas

  • The Leonhardt Lagoon (1936) and its earthy sculptural element, added in 1986

  • Perot Museum of Nature and Science at Fair Park (1936) which was Dallas' original Museum of Fine Arts

  • Fair Park Band Shell (1936) in Streamline Moderne style

  • Texas Discovery Gardens (1936) with a modern exterior added to what was originally the exposition's Horticulture Building

  • The Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park (1936) which incorporated technological advances of the time

  • Cotton Bowl (1930, expanded in 1948, 1959, 1994 and 2008) site of the original Fair Park Stadium

  • The Music Hall at Fair Park (1925, remodeled in 1972) built in Spanish colonial style

THE AGRARIAN DISTRICT
This section ironically portrays a very urban feel. It houses the livestock facilities and exhibit halls along Nimitz Drive. Some of the Agrarian District's architectural highlights (also featured in our Esplanade walking tour) include:
  • Food and Fiber Building (1936) which had murals concealed by layers of paint that were "re-discovered" by accident prior to a 1999 conservation project

  • Embarcadero Building (1936) designed to mirror the Food and Fiber Building

  • Woofus (originally constructed in 1936, recreated in 2002) a sculpture that is part sheep, part horse, part hog, part duck, part turkey, part Texas longhorn and all, um ... male.

THE MIDWAY
This popular playground has as its most striking monument the giant Texas Star Ferris wheel, the second largest Ferris wheel in the world. The Midway also houses during the State Fair of Texas several amusement park rides and games of chance.

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