There can be no doubt that one of the most important milestone years in the history of Fair Park was 1936, when the Texas Centennial Exposition was held on the site. In preparation for the
six-month long event, the appearance of the park was dramatically altered by architect George Dahl and an army of artisans and workers. Together, they transformed it from an early Twentieth century
fairground into a veritable Art Deco showcase. Most of Fair Park's present-day structures date from 1936 and the few pre-Centennial buildings left standing were remodeled at the same time. Some of the Exposition's buildings were meant to be temporary. It's interesting to note that while several of these "temporary" structures have since been demolished, most are still in use today.
The Texas Centennial Exposition opened on Saturday, June 6, 1936. By the time it closed on Sunday, November 29, 1936 it had hosted over six-million visitors from around the world. Among the more noteworthy visitors were President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vice-President John Nance "Cactus Jack" Garner, musician "Duke" Ellington, actress Ginger Rogers, and a western-style singing group called the Sons of the Pioneers. One of their members was a young man named Len Slyle who later changed his name to Roy Rogers. Another singing cowboy, the already well-known Gene Autry, made a movie on the Exposition grounds. It was appropriately titled "The Big Show." Providing news coverage was a rookie radio announcer named Art Linkletter, who would also go on to greater fame.
In the sixty years since the Centennial Exposition there have been other changes at Fair Park, but none quite as dramatic. As a result, the park still retains much of the architectural flavor of the Texas Centennial Exposition and its successor, the Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition of 1937. It seems this is not due to any plan. Rather, it is the result of the benign neglect to which many of the park's buildings have been subjected over the years.
During the 1980s there was some renewed interest in the park. Between 1987 and 1989 the exterior of the Hall of State was cleaned and repaired and its interior restored and remodeled. The Automobile Building, constructed in 1947 to replace the Centennial Building's twin, was remodeled in 1985-1986 to resemble the original structure and to restore some measure of visual harmony to the Esplanade area.
Although many of its long-neglected buildings have been restored or renovated in recent years, the future of Fair Park is uncertain. One major concern is that Fair Park is underused. Fortunately, an effort is underway to resolve this issue.