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Fair Park Grounds History

Art Deco exposition buildings and public art


FAIR PARK WAS DESIGNATED A NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK IN 1986 BECAUSE OF ITS EXCEPTIONAL SIGNIFICANCE IN AMERICAN HISTORY.

Fair Park is a 277-acre venue containing one of the largest complexes in the American Southwest devoted to year-round cultural, entertainment, exhibition and sports facilities.

Within the 30-structure Fair Park complex is the largest intact concentration of 1930s-era exposition buildings and public art in the United States. It is also one of the most significant sites in the world for Art Deco architecture.

Fair Park’s location dates to the first Dallas State Fair, which occurred in 1886. However, many of the existing buildings arose for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, which attracted more than seven million visitors. More structures – some of which are connected to the annual State Fair of Texas – have arrived since then.

FAIR PARK GROUNDS HIGHLIGHTS

1886 | The first Dallas State Fair takes place, with the Parry Avenue entrance as the original main entrance into Fair Park.

1905 | The Centennial Building debuts as the fairground’s first steel-and- masonry exhibition building. Its eight murals, originally painted by Carlo Ciampaglia, depict various forms of transportation. Architect George Dahl renovated this building for the 1936 Exposition.

1910 | Dallas’ first municipal coliseum is built in Fair Park. Designed for horse shows by day and operas by night, the building had its Art Deco façade added during 1935 renovations. The State Fair of Texas used the building until 1994, when The Women's Museum restored the entire building. The Women's Museum closed in 2011.

1930 | The Cotton Bowl Stadium opens on what had been the infield of an old racetrack. It is the largest stadium in the American South at the time. In 1936, Architect George Dahl revitalizes it for the Texas Centennial Exposition. Upper decks get added in 1948 and 1949. Today, the Cotton Bowl also has additional seating around each end zone.

1936 | The Tower Building, Hall of State, Museum of Fine Arts (now the Perot Museum of Nature and Science at Fair Park) and other new buildings and works of art open in time for the 1936 Exposition.

1986 | Fair Park supporters help restore and renovate the park’s long-neglected assets. Friends of Fair Park, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is created to raise money and find new uses for the Centennial structures. It also establishes year-round uses for Fair Park.

1998 | Extensive renovations come to many Fair Park buildings and artworks. They include the Spirit of the Centennial sculpture outside the former Women's Museum, the Tower Building eagle, and the Pan American building complex.

Today, the City of Dallas' Fair Park Administration – a division of the city's Park and Recreation Department – oversees Fair Park's grounds. Fair Park is supported by the Friends of Fair Park.