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A Tour of the Historic Heart of Fair Park

Return to Fair Park History

Please note: This timeline does not purport to be all-inclusive nor error-free. If you spot an error or know of an important event I've overlooked, please contact me at texian1846@yahoo.com. Thanks!

The Post-Exposition Years (1938-1984)

October 8, 1938

Founders Statue dedicated.

1938

The "African Dip," a Midway concession, opens. Railton Field, first lighted softball field in Dallas, opened at Fair Park. Ford Exhibit and Humble Hall of History demolished. Dallas Historical Society given custodianship of Hall of State. Famed female golfer "Babe" Didrickson plays in "Fair-Way" miniature golf tournament.

July 1938

Centennial Masonite model home moved from Fair Park to corner of Gaston and Auburn in East Dallas.

November 12, 1939

WRR Radio moves into former Chrysler Bldg. at Fair Park.

1939-1942

Part of old Automobile Building turned into a roller skating rink.

August 1941

Aviation unit of Texas Defense Guard given permission to use Alamo replica at Fair Park.

1941

Dallas Centennial celebration held at Fair Park. Old Livestock Coliseum converted into roller-skating rink. Workman accidentally damages the Woofus, which is afterward placed in storage (and later mysteriously disappears). First “Starlight Operas” begin at the Band Shell. Dallas Garden Center opens in Centennial’s Horticulture Hall.

February 10, 1942

Electrical and Communications Building and adjoining Automobile Building destroyed by fire.

1942

Ciampaglia murals on General Exhibits Building covered with a layer of paint.

1942-1945

No State Fair due to World War II. 29th Battalion of Texas Defense Guard uses old WPA building. Horticulture building used by Rationing Board. U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps uses General Exhibits Building (present-day Centennial Building) as a repair facility. In 1944-1945 German POWS work there.)

1944

Fletcher’s Corny Dogs introduced at the Summer Midway. Cost: 15 cents. New Cotton Bowl Roller Rink opens.

1945

Theater ’45 uses Old Globe Theater replica.

April 1946

Old Globe Theater replica demolished.

May 23, 1946

Midget Racer Speedway opens at Fair Park.

1946

First postwar State Fair held.

1947

Actress Mary Martin appears at Music Hall in “Annie Get Your Gun.” Magnolia Lounge becomes Margo Jones Theater. 10-year old roller coaster torn down and replaced with new wooden Comet roller coaster, built for $100,000.

October 11, 1947

Eleven persons injured in miniature railway accident.

1947-1948

New 650-foot-long automobile building constructed for $800,000.

1948

“Kiddie Town” becomes a permanent fixture on the Midway. West side of Cotton Bowl “double-decked” to increase seating to 67,431.

1949

East side of Cotton Bowl “double-decked” to increase seating to 75,504 and new team dressing rooms built. Last year (probably) that "Fair-Way" miniature golf course is in operation.

1950

“South Pacific” performed at the Music Hall; enjoys largest gross of any musical staged at State Fair to date.

November 6, 1950

Dallas’ famous hand-carved oak Merry-Go-Round burns down.

1951

New Livestock Pavilion constructed in time for State Fair.

August 31, 1951

Alamo replica built for Texas Centennial Exposition is razed.

October 4, 1952

“Big Tex” debuts at State Fair. Senator and future U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson opens the Fair.

1953

“Big Tex’s” jaw is hinged so he can “speak.”

1954

Women’s Building (present-day Grand Place) built. Dallas Power and Light Company installs a clock on former Federal Building along with a large letters identifying the structure as the Electric Building.

May 15, 1954

Annual Boy Scout Circus held in Cotton Bowl.

1955

During the State Fair, African-American pickets protest fairgrounds segregation. Girl killed in Ferris Wheel accident and two others injured.

1956

Monorail installed in time for State Fair. $400,000 of bond money allocated for Fair Park expansion

October 11, 1956

Elvis Presley performs in the Cotton Bowl.

November 1956

Old Textile and Fine Arts Building demolished.

1957

13-acre parking lot added to Fair Park. Name of State Fair Auditorium changed to State Fair Music Hall. New Garden Center building incorporates old Horticultural Hall.

1958

Grandstand and picnic pavilion razed; construction begins on new Livestock Coliseum.

1959

Last season that Fair Park public swimming pool is opened. New Livestock Coliseum opened.

October 9, 1959

Vice-President and future President Richard M. Nixon leads State Fair parade and helps open the Fair. Afterward, with wife Pat, he tours the grounds.

1959

“Flight to the Moon” ride debuts at State Fair.

1960

Fair Park public swimming pool demolished.

September 1961

Motion picture “State Fair,” starring Pat Boone, Ann Margaret, and Tom Ewell, filmed on grounds just prior to State Fair opening.

1961

Vice-President and future President Lyndon B. Johnson acts as State Fair tour guide for Pakistani camel driver.

1961-1962

Underground Civil Defense Headquarters fallout shelter built beneath Science and Health Museum patio.

January 4, 1963

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers a speech at a poll tax rally held in the State Fair Music Hall.

May 1963

Dept. of Public Safety moves out of Texas Ranger Cabin it had been using as Drivers License office.

August 1963

Texas Ranger cabin demolished.

1964

In the wake of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the "African Dip" concession is renamed "Splash! Splash!"

August-September 1964

Monorail dismantled and “Swiss Sky Ride” erected in its place.

1965

The ashes of pioneer aviator Charles Wiggins are scattered in the Cotton Bowl.

1967

$12.6 billion bond package includes Fair Park improvements.

January 1, 1968

Dedication ceremony for R. L. Thornton statue in front of Hall of State.

October 11, 1970

Berlin Bear statue dedicated.

December 8, 1971

State Fair purchases and takes over operation of Swiss Skyride.

1972

City-owned radio station WRR moves into new $375,000 wing adjacent to the Health and Science Museum (now Science Place II and formerly the Hall of Domestic Science).

1972-1973

During bond-financed capital improvement program, a quarter of a million dollars is allocated for Fair Park improvement.

August 17, 1972

Southern Christian Leadership Conference rally held at Fair Park Band Shell. Speakers include Coretta Scott King, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, and U. S. Senator Barbara Jordan.

Summer 1974

Major renovations to Fair Park Midway. Cotton Bowl Roller Rink torn down.

October 9, 1976

President Gerald Ford participates in State Fair opening day ceremonies at Hall of State.

October 21, 1979

Swiss Skyride accident results in 1 death and 17 injured fairgoers. Ride is closed down, never to reopen.

1981

Old Mill building, the former occupants of which were American Beauty Flour, Borden’s, Youngblood’s Chicken, and El Chico, becomes Old Mill Inn restaurant.

1982

Dallas voters approve bond package that includes $18 million for Fair Park improvements.

1983

Dallas Museum of Fine Art moves out of building at Fair Park to new location in Downtown Arts District (opens to public January 1984).

October 17, 1983

Gondola from Enterprise ride falls, killing 1 and injuring 16 others.

(This timeline consists of selected dates only, which were derived from a variety of sources.)

Copyright © 2003-2005 by Steven Butler. All rights reserved.