Return to Home Page

Fair Park History

The Early Years
The Early Years

A New City Park
A New City Park

The Exposition Years
The Exposition Years

The Post-Centennial Years
Post-Exposition Era

Restoration and Renewal
Restoration & Renewal

The Early Years (1886-1903)

August 1885

Farm and Ranch publisher Frank P. Holland suggests holding an annual state fair in Dallas.

January 30, 1886

Dallas State Fair Association chartered by State of Texas.

April 1886

After a rift develops in the Dallas State Fair Association over selection of a site, the “implement men” resign to form a rival Texas State Fair, also chartered by the State of Texas. Implement manufacturer Cecil A. Keating calls the Dallas State Fair site “the worst kind of hog wallow.”

May 29, 1886

A grand picnic for schoolchildren and the general public is held on the Dallas State Fair site in East Dallas.

July 3, 1886

Farmers Alliance and Knights of Labor Independence Day picnic held on Texas State Fair site in North Dallas.

July 5, 1886

Free public barbecue held on the grounds of the Dallas State Fair.

October 25-30, 1886

Texas State Fair held in North Dallas. Highlights of fair include horse racing and balloon ascensions.

October 26-November 6, 1886

Dallas State Fair held in East Dallas. Henry Garrett’s power plant provides electricity for lighting. Indians perform dances in front of grandstand. Quanah Parker visits. Highlights of fair include horse racing and balloon ascensions.

February 14, 1887

Texas State Fair Dallas State Fair combined and re-chartered as Texas State Fair and Dallas Exposition, agreeing to use the East Dallas site for all future fairs. (The North Dallas site became the “Fairland Addition,” a residential development.)

December 1887

An additional 30 acres of land are purchased, enlarging the fairgrounds to 120 acres.

October 11, 1888

During the State Fair a roller coaster accident injures five passengers; roller coaster operator flees.


A 2,000 person capacity Music Hall is added to the northeast corner of the General Exhibits or Exposition Building. A grandstand is erected between the Exposition Building and Main Entrance, primarily as a place for livestock exhibition. A 5/8-mile track for “bicycle racing, foot racing, dog racing, etc.” is also built.

September 21, 1891

Fire breaks out racing stables, killing 17 horses and destroying 402 stables. (Stables are rebuilt the following year.)

November 3, 1892

Lightning strikes the Exposition Building, setting fire to an exhibit. The fire is put out before it can spread.


“Privilege Row,” an 830 foot long building for people wanting to do business on the fairgrounds, is erected between the racetrack grandstand and Power Hall. The House of Public Convenience, a ladies toilet room, is also constructed. The open court in Machinery Hall is floored over, to allow for more exhibit space. Both Machinery Hall and Power Hall are re-roofed. Space for 300 coops added to Poultry Building. A stone foundation is added to the racetrack grandstand.


Main Exposition Building extensively remodeled in time for the annual state fair.

June 19, 1897

African-American citizens of Dallas celebrate Emancipation Day ("Juneteenth") at fairgrounds.


Old Machinery Hall/Manufacturers Hall, built in 1886, converted into an auditorium.

October 2-4, 1899

Democratic presidential hopeful and future Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan speaks at State Fair auditorium.


Bleachers collapse during a fireworks display, leading to several lawsuits against fair association.

September 29-October 14, 1900

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show performs in the racetrack infield during the State Fair.

October 5, 1900

African-American educator Booker T. Washington speaks at the fairgrounds auditorium on “Colored People’s Day” at the Fair.

January 1, 1902

First automobile races held at fairgrounds; steam, electric, and gasoline-powered vehicles participate.

April 22, 1902

United Confederate Veterans hold national reunion at fairgrounds.

July 20, 1902

Original wooden Exposition Building and adjoining Music Hall catch fire and burn to the ground.


Machinery Hall enlarged for use as Exposition Building. Auditorium converted into a Music Hall. Part of Implement Building collapses during renovation, injuring 15 workmen and killing one.

October 1902

Renowned pianist Paderewski performs at State Fair. Automobile and motorcycle races held at racetrack during State Fair.

October 8, 1902

“Saloon Smasher” Carrie Nation speaks at auditorium that has been converted into a Music Hall (she also creates a sensation by visiting a saloon tent and admonishing the bartender and patrons).

October 11, 1902

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show returns to perform in the racetrack infield.


State Legislature bans betting on horse racing. Developers offer $125,000 cash for fairgrounds; offered refused. Instead, a proposition is made to sell the fairgrounds to the City of Dallas.

This website copyright © 2002-2017 by Steven Butler,Ph.D. All rights reserved.