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Fair Park

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Title: Fair Park  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Dallas, WikiProject Dallas-Fort Worth/Neighborhoods, Texas Centennial Exposition, Cotton Bowl (stadium), Heart of Dallas Bowl
Collection: Amusement Parks in Texas, Art Deco Architecture in Texas, Dallas Landmarks, Defunct Motorsport Venues in the United States, Fair Park, Fairgrounds, Formula One Circuits, Landmarks in Dallas, Texas, National Register of Historic Places in Dallas County, Texas, Parks in Dallas, Texas, Paul Philippe Cret Buildings, Sports Venues in Texas, Visitor Attractions in Dallas, Texas, World's Fair Architecture, World's Fair Architecture in the United States, World's Fair Sites in the United States
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Fair Park

Texas Centennial Exposition Buildings (1936--1937)
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
Area 277 acres (1.12 km2)[1]
Built 1936
Architect Dahl, George L.; Et al.
Architectural style Art Deco
NRHP Reference # 86003488
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 24, 1986[2]
Designated NHL September 24, 1986[3]

Fair Park is a 277-acre (1.12 km2) recreational and educational complex located in Dallas, Texas (USA). The area, which is immediately southeast of downtown Dallas, is registered as a Dallas Landmark and National Historic Landmark. Many of the buildings were constructed for the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936.

Fair Park has been designated a Great Place in America by the American Planning Association.


  • History 1
    • Restoration and future 1.1
  • Cultural district 2
  • Midway and other structures 3
  • Annual events 4
  • Other notable events 5
  • Transportation 6
  • Education 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The site was established as an 80-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,".[4] It became Dallas' second public park and became known as "Fair Park."

An important figure in Fair Park's development was landscape architect and city planner George Kessler. In 1906, he was responsible for the first formal plan for the park influenced by the City Beautiful Movement. The City Beautiful Movement advocated well planned public spaces, tree-lined boulevards, monuments, public art, and fountains which would ‘beautify’ the city.

A milestone in Fair Park's history was 1936, when the Paul Cret. The park was transformed from an early 20th-century fairground into an Art Deco showcase. While many of the exposition's buildings were meant to be temporary, several have survived and have been restored to some extent. 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 an unsubstantiated estimate of 5 million visitors annually, the bulk of which attend during the 24 day State Fair of Texas.[5]

Restoration and future

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 the historic Parry Avenue entrance gates were restored in 2009. The four cameo reliefs on Centennial Building underwent a professional conservation treatment in 2000 and the Esplanade fountain pylons and six monumental sculptures in 2004.[6] Several sculptures were reconstructed and feature a dramatic light and water show.

In 2003, the Fair Park Comprehensive Development plan was produced by Hargreaves Associates. This comprehensive plan included recommendations for the physical site, park programs, activities, funding options, and management alternatives.[7] The park received a $72 million city bond allocation in 2006 for repairs and improvements.[8]

In September 2014, a blue ribbon task force appointed by Mayor

  • City of Dallas: Fair Park
  • Friends of Fair Park
  • Fair Park Calendar of Events
  • Fair Park Comprehensive Development Plan
  • 360-degree images of Fair Park

External links

  • 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
  1. ^ a b Stephen G. Snyder and James H. Charleton (December 24, 1985). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Texas Centennial Exposition Buildings (1936-37) / Fair Park (Site of Texas State Fairs 1886-date" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-06-26.  and Accompanying 19 photos, from 1985 PDF (4.10 MB)
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  3. ^ a b "Fair Park Texas Centennial Buildings". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "American Planning Association". Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b c d e f Friends of Fair Park
  15. ^ African American Museum
  16. ^ a b Perot Museum website on Fair Park
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Our Schools." Foundation for the Education of Young Women. Retrieved on May 23, 2011. "The school is located in Fair Park at 1718 Robert B. Cullum Boulevard."


Irma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School is located in Fair Park.[28]


  • 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.[27]


  • In July 1984, Fair Park was transformed into a United States Grand Prix West in Long Beach, California, and featured two hairpin curves. The event was attended by former US President Jimmy Carter and featured Larry Hagman ('J. R. Ewing' from the television series Dallas) waving the green flag to start the parade lap. Williams driver Keke Rosberg driving the Williams FW09-Honda turbo won his 3rd F1 Grand Prix, his only win of the 1984 season. Nigel Mansell, who led for over half the race after starting from his first ever F1 pole position in his Lotus 95T-Renault, famously collapsed from exhaustion while trying to push his car to the finish line after his gearbox failed on the last lap and was finally classified 6th.
  • The musical film State Fair was filmed in Fair Park in 1961.
  • In December 2013, the Chanel Paris-Dallas pre-fall show was held at Fair Park.
Dallas Grand Prix Circuit
Location Fair Park, Dallas, Texas, USA
Time zone GMT -6
Major events 1984 Dallas Grand Prix
Length 2.424 mi (3.901 km)
Turns 14
Lap record 1:45.353, 133.300 km/h ( Niki Lauda, McLaren, 1984)

Other notable events

  • The complex's signature event is the annual State Fair of Texas, the largest state fair in the United States by annual attendance, which has been held there since 1886. It currently lasts 24 days and begins in the last Friday in September and runs to the third Sunday in October.
  • The State Fair also operated Summer Adventures in Fair Park, a beach-themed amusement park from May to August 2013.[24]
  • Despite a $30,000,000 investment in Summer Adventures, the event was shuttered after just one season.[23] Fair Park's Summer Amusement Venture is Dead.[25]
  • The North Texas Irish Festival, takes place the first weekend in March each year.
  • Earth Day Texas, takes place annually in April.[26]
  • Fair Park Fourth is the annual Independence Day celebration for the City of Dallas.

Annual events

  • The Texas Star, opened in 1985, is the largest Ferris wheel in North America.
  • Among political infighting, lawsuits and community unrest, the Starplex (f/k/a Smirnoff Music Center, n/k/a Gexa Pavilion) was built. Former Park Board member Jim Graham said the City's agreement with PACE Entertainment "stinks".[18]
  • The Texas Skyway, opened in 2007, is an art deco-styled gondola ride that transports visitors 65 feet (20 m) above the ground for a ride that is one-third of a mile.[19]
  • The Top o' Texas Tower, opened in 2013, is a 500-foot (150 m) observation tower ride.[20] The tower's base may eventually house a museum devoted to the State Fair and Texas Centennial Exposition collection.[21] At a cost of more than $12,000,000, the Tower was to be the featured ride of the failed Summer Adventures program.[22] Summer Adventures, while planned as an annual event, was open for one year and shuttered, despite a $30,000,000 investment.[23]
  • Fair Park is home to the Texas State Vietnam Memorial.
Texas State Vietnam Memorial

Midway and other structures

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.[14]

Music Hall at Fair Park

The Cotton Bowl stadium was built in 1932 below-grade and was originally known as the Fair Park Bowl. Subsequent expansions resulted in a present capacity of 92,200. The Cotton Bowl Classic was played there from 1937-2009. Annually during the State Fair of Texas, it hosts the AT&T Red River Rivalry game between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma along with the Southwest Airlines State Fair Classic game between Grambling State University (Louisiana) and Prairie View A&M University. It was also home to the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1971 until their move to Texas Stadium in Irving.

Cotton Bowl

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.[14]

Texas Discovery Gardens

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.[14]

Fair Park Band Shell

The History Building, once the Museum of Natural History, was designed for the Texas Centennial Exposition as a monolithic, rectangular box. 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, the northeast corner of the building was excavated, creating a series of landscaped terraces.

The Museum of Nature & Science occupied two buildings around the lagoon (one named "The Science Place"[16]), and a planetarium next to the WRR building, before moving most of its operations to the new Perot campus at Victory Park in December 2012. The former History Building remains open on weekends as a secondary campus of the Perot Museum.[17] The IMAX theatre and planetarium at the Fair Park campus are shuttered.[16]

Museum of Nature and Science

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.[14]

The Leonhardt Lagoon

The current museum building occupies virtually the same site as the Texas Centennial Exposition’s Hall of Negro Life. It boasts a permanent collection that consists of the works of such highly regarded African American artists as Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Larry D. Alexander, John T. Biggers, Clementine Hunter, Benny Andrews, Edward Mitchell Bannister and Arthello Beck[14][15]

African American Museum

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.

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.

Magnolia Lounge and (former) Hall of Religion

The Old Mill Inn was one of the few Texas Centennial Exposition buildings not to incorporate Art Deco styling. Clad in fieldstone with heavy-timber construction, this was the exhibit building for the flour milling industry. It now sporadically serves Fair Park as a restaurant.[14]

Old Mill Inn

The Hall of State is managed by the Dallas Historical Society, which hosts exhibits inside about Dallas history and culture.

Hall of State
Music Hall at Fair Park
African American Museum
The Cotton Bowl
The Leonhardt Lagoon

Many Dallas cultural institutions call Fair Park home.

Cultural district

In March 2015, the State Fair pushed back on any notion of tightening up the footprint of its current operation. Dallas Morning News reporter Robert Wilonsky called the State Fair’s response “rather dramatic” The article also quoted Stephen Page of the closed Texas Museum of Automotive History from 2012 as saying, “The City’s requirement that tenants vacate the majority of the buildings in Fair Park during the State Fair is the principal reason for Fair Park’s ongoing decline.” Wilonsky also quoted a ‘prominent member of the Mayor’s Task Force’ as suggesting privately “that the State Fair’s presence at Fair Park also needs to be greatly reduced.”[13]

[12] Following the presentation of the Task Force Plan, Mayor Mike Rawlings said, "I felt passion by all the council and park board members that they want Fair Park to be all it can be and they're interested in taking this big challenge on".[11] Architect/City planner Antonio Di Mambro, with international experience in infrastructure planning and neighborhood revitalization, encouraged the Mayor to use the Task Force report as a building block for constructive dialogue with residents, stakeholders and the neighborhoods around Fair Park.[10]

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