Parry Avenue Entrance was the original main entrance into Fair Park in 1886. Whether it was a train, tram, or bus, all public transportation met at this point. This was the beginning of the original campus for the State Fair Association of Texas, which was simply two campuses in the middle of a cotton field with no trees. At the main gate to Fair Park, tan columns in a classic art deco style are decorated with bas-relief carvings done in white with a blue background. Bas-relief are a classic art deco style of carving that is used to create three-dimensional murals on buildings. The carvings at the front of the main gate, which wrap around the columns, depict pioneers coming into Texas.
Centennial Building (Formally "Transportation" Building and "Chrysler" Building) was built in 1905 as the first steel and masonry exhibition building on the Fair grounds and was renovated by George Dahl for the 1936 Exposition, who expanded the building to almost twice its original length. The building is decorated with eight murals, originally painted by Carlo Ciampaglia, and depicting various forms of transportation. The eight murals, moving from the West portico, closest to the Women’s Building and heading East to the Hall of State, are: Speed, Traction, Railroad Transportation, Navigation, Future Transportation, Old Methods of Transportation (Navy), Aeroplane Transportation (Air) and Automotive Transportation. Restoration has been completed on all eight murals and consisted of removing years of over painting and abuse.
The Esplanade (Reflecting Basin) is located between the Centennial and Automobile Buildings and is flanked by three sculptures on each side representing the six nations that once ruled Texas. The three sculptures that stand in front of the Centennial Building were designed by Lawrence Tenney Stevens and represent Texas, Confederacy and Spain. The remaining three, which stand in front of the Automobile Building, represent Mexico, France and the United States and were sculpted by Raoul Josett. The 700-foot long reflecting pool that runs between the two buildings is lit by 24 powerful searchlights from behind the Hall of State Building.
Cotton Bowl (Fair Park Stadium) was originally built in 1930 but was revitalized by Dahl in 1936. It originally was constructed on an old racetrack infield. It was the largest stadium in the South at the time with a seating capacity of 46,200. The capacity has been increased by the addition of upper decks in 1948 and 1949.
Automobile Building (Formally "Varied Industries" Building and "Electric and Communications") building was home to eight murals painted by Pierre Bourdelle to represent the various industries in 1942. The industries represented were: Electricity, X-Ray, Builders (Inventors), the Photographic Process, Iron Workers, Power Dams, Lens Makers and Miners. Unfortunately, the original Automobile Building was destroyed in a fire and rebuilt in 1948. Six of the eight original murals, were restored in 2000 from pictures of the original building, Electricity and Builders were not recreated.
Women’s Building (Formally "Hall of Administration") was built in 1910 and was Dallas' first coliseum. It was originally designed for horse shows and to hold livestock but was used throughout the year at night for Operas and all kinds of musical entertainment. It was the first building renovated by Dahl in 1935 from State Fair use to Centennial use and was primarily used as the Centennial Exposition's administrative building. He added a new Art Deco façade and removed the original porticos. The State Fair of Texas used the building after the Centennial until 1994 when the Women’s Building restored the entire building inside and out.
Spirit of the Centennial Sculpture was designed by Raoul Josett and Jose Martin to sit in front of the Hall of Administration building (now the Women’s Building). Carlo Ciampaglia designed the mural that serves as a backdrop to the sculpture, also titled Spirit of the Centennial. The woman featured in the sculpture has been a source of controversy with two different women claiming to have been the model. There is dispute over whether the model was Marry Ellen Bensterdt, a Duchess and 1930's model, or the wife of K. Keiser, a big band leader during that era. Raoul Josett and Jose Martin also designed the Fish Fountain Sculpture, depicting flying fish swimming over a reflecting pond, which sits in front of the building. Stashka Star recreated renovated the Spirit of the Centennial mural and sculpture in 1998 and John Dennis recreated the Fish Fountain Sculpture in 2000.
Pan American Building Complex encompasses the Sheep and Goat Building, Poultry Building, Arena, and Horse Barn. Dahl renovated an existing building and designed the Complex around it. He refreshed the look of it with a new Art Deco façade. The complex is decorated with murals of animal heads done by Pierre Bourdelle. Carlo Ciampaglia painted lunettes depicting a peacock, geese and chickens and a large turkey on the walls of the Poultry Building. The Dallas Police Mounted Unit Headquarters is now housed in the former livestock barns that was renovated in 1998.
The Woofus, a combination of six classic Texas animals, sits outside the Swine Building atop a 16-foolt pedestal and was originally created for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition by sculptor Lawrence Tenney Stevens but disappeared shortly thereafter. It has a sheep's head, a stallion's neck, a hog's body, turkey feathers and duck wings. The "crowning" glory of the piece is a set of ten-foot wide Texas longhorns gilded with chromium with a crown perched between them and a Mexican blanket draped around his shoulders. The Woofus was returned home in September of 2003 thanks to the efforts of Friends of Fair Park and the State Fair of Texas.
Tower Building (Formally "Federal" Building) was designed by Dahl in 1936 and renovated in 1999. As the geographic center of the Centennial Exposition, it stood above the rest at 179 feet. Julian Garnsey designed the three murals on the building to depict the Seals of the United States. Garnsey, also, designed the bas-relief that wraps around the front façade of the building telling the story of the history of Texas.
Raoul Josset originally designed the eagle that sits perched on top of the building but it had to be replicated in 1998 because it was too badly damaged to be eligible for restoration. Inside the building, the rotunda is decorated with stenciling on the ceilings and has four murals, one in each corner, depicting the four regions of America: North, South, East and West. There is a pattern designed into the floor and the original furniture remains in the room.
Hall of State (Formally "State of Texas" Building) was designed in 1936 to be the architectural centerpiece of the Exposition. Ten Dallas firms were hired to design the building, but all failed to come up with a plan to suit the vision of the State Board of Control. Dahl hired Houston architect Donald Barthelme to help at the last minute, but it was too late. At $1.3 million, it was the most expensive structure per square foot ever built in Texas at the time, and the only building not finished on opening day.
The statues out front represent the six flags over Texas. The pillars are decorated with bas-relief and show soldiers marching around them. The building was constructed in Texas limestone in the shape of a T, and the bronze entry doors were ornamented with designs representing the industrial and architectural side of Texas. The Hall of State gave the Texas Centennial the honor of being the first air-conditioned World's Fair.
Inside the Hall of State is the Hall of Heroes, a memorial to cowboys and ranchers who originally tamed Texas. The Hall of Heroes is located in the front entranceway and is flanked by two rooms on each side representing the four parts of Texas: East, West, North and South. The Great Hall sits directly behind it and is set apart from the other rooms by a stunning gold-leaf medallion in the shape of a five-pointed star with six figures around it representing the six nations of which Texas has been part. The West room now houses the Dallas Historical Society's research library.
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