History of Fair Park
Fair Park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986, because of its exceptional significance in American history. This significance is derived from its 105-year association with the State Fair of Texas and as the site of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. While the location of Fair Park dates back to the original 1886 fairgrounds, many of the existing buildings and public spaces were constructed for the 1936 Exposition which attracted over 7 million visitors.
In preparation for the Centennial, the fairgrounds were expanded and transformed into a showplace of modern buildings under the remarkable direction of Centennial Architect George Dahl and consulting architect Paul Cret. The design theme for the Exposition was "Texanic" and "Southwestern." This regional flavor, intermingled with modern concepts, was the basic design style for both the renovation of existing Fair Park structures and the design of new buildings.
After sixty-five years, all of the permanent and many of the temporary buildings, murals, statues and bas-relief sculptures survive. In addition, a number of buildings have been constructed since the Centennial; most blend well with the character of the 1936 Exposition buildings. The 30-structure Fair Park complex constitutes the largest intact concentration of 1930s-era exposition buildings and public art remaining in the United States, and is recognized as one of the most significant sites in the world for Art Deco architecture.
The State Fair of Texas has operated in Fair Park continuously before, and since the Centennial. Since before the Centennial, Fair Park has been the destination of many rural people and thousands of youth whose first trip to a city was their trip to the fair at Fair Park. Hundreds of housewives, farmers and youth entered preserves, cakes, quilts, hogs, chickens and cattle into competition and judging. Fair Park was a special kind of park where in addition to the fair, symphonies, grand operas, summer musicals, and, at one time, horse racing were the highlights of the day.
In 1904, this special park was acquired when the State Fair met with reverses in the way of a destructive fire and unprofitable exhibition. Fair Park became Dallas' second park when the City of Dallas agreed to pay the mortgage and take title to the property, build exhibition halls, and start a sewer-water system with a $125,000 bond issue. Since that time, the City has leased the land to the State Fair Association for a few weeks out of every year in order for the fair to be held. For twenty-four days each year in October, Fair Park experiences the vitality and social interaction that has characterized state fairs since the turn of the century. During the last decade, attendance at the Fair has surged to 3.5 million, ranking it as the largest annual exposition in the United States.
Today, Fair Park is a 277-acre venue containing one of the largest complexes of year-round cultural, entertainment, exhibit and sports facilities in the Southwest. Fair Park is operated on a daily basis by Fair Park Administration, a division of the Dallas Park and Recreation Department.
© 2001-2006 City of Dallas, Texas.