Art & architecture around Fair Park

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 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 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. The official statue is name the Texas Woofus and serves as the Friend's unofficial mascot.



THE MIDWAY (open during the State Fair of Texas)

This popular playground has as its most striking monument the giant Texas Star Ferris wheel. The Midway also houses during the State Fair of Texas several amusement park rides and games of chance. More information can be found at www.bigtex.com.



For self guided walking tours and print outs of Fair Park, visit the tours page.

Friends of Fair Park is a member-supported non profit advocacy group. Donate or join today!

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