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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

A New City Park (1904-1935)

April 5, 1904

Voters approve the “Reardon Plan,” which proposes that the City of Dallas purchase the fairgrounds from the state fair association, for use as a year-round park.

October 11, 1904

Fair Park is “born” when the fairgrounds are officially acquired at a cost of $125,000. City limits are extended to include the park.

October 1904

State Fair association holds a "Texas Grand Festival and Kaliph's Celebration" in place of the annual State Fair.

November 1, 1904

City council approves petition of Dallas Base Ball Club to use Fair Park Ball Park.

January 27, 1905

Groundbreaking ceremonies for new steel and concrete Exposition Building constructed for $90,000. the Dallas State Fair site in East Dallas.

May 30, 1905

26 "heroic size" plaster statues purchased from St. Louis World's Fair arrive in Dallas. They are subsequently placed in various spots at Fair Park, including atop the bandstand and near the race track.


State legislature repeals anti-betting act. Barney Oldfield participates in auto races during the State Fair. New bandstand erected.

February 1906

Old Machinery Hall converted into a skating rink. Contract is allowed to expire in 1907 when it is discovered that operators are using the rink as a front for a house of prostitution.

March 26, 1906

Actress Sarah Bernhardt performs in “Camille” at adjacent Cycle Park (site of future State Fair Music Hall).


After St. Louis landscape architect George Kessler suggests park improvements, several are made, including new drainage system, sewers, and walkways. Fair Park skating rink enlarged. New stone, steel, and cement Main Entrance Building constructed for $5,000 and a 40-foot concrete walk, from main entrance is built. New poultry building constructed. New restaurant row replaces old “Smoky Row.” Auditorium gets a new egg-shaped ceiling, painted sky blue. Old baseball park to be used for concessions during Fair. New livestock grandstand constructed. A sunken garden takes the place of old Gin Building. Park is enlarged when 10 acres of land on southern end of grounds are acquired for $12,497. City adopts policy of placing all telephone, telegraph, and electrical wires at park underground. Grand Avenue entrance, designed by Paul C. Renard, built.

October 19, 1907

Fair Park Clubhouse (for racing enthusiasts) officially opened.

Spring 1908

Row of "unsightly" shacks removed from main driveway. Work begins on new Grand Entrance gates designed by James Flanders.

October 1908

American Federation of Labor Founder and President Samuel Gompers speaks at auditorium.


Steel grandstand built to replace old wooden racetrack grandstand. Textile and Fine Arts Building constructed. New Agricultural Building constructed. First auto show held during State Fair.


City operates zoo at Fair Park (on site of present-day Vietnam Memorial).


Concessionaire Henry Putz provides free movies at Fair Park.

October 16, 1909

Dallas Morning News Alamo Replica dedicated.

October 18, 1909

Aeronaut Frank Goodale makes a flight in a Strobel dirigible from the racetrack infield, covering 5 miles and reaching an altitude of as much as 200 feet.

October 23, 1909

President William Howard Taft delivers a speech at the racetrack grandstand. Louis Reichenstein killed by National Guardsman J. D. Manley as he tries to cross Parry Avenue prior to the President’s arrival at the fairgrounds.

October 26, 1909

Comanche Indian Chief Quanah Parker delivers an address in the convention tent on “Quanah Route Day.” Read "Hear the Big Indian Speak."

October 28, 1909

Motorcycle racer Eugene J. Marsh is killed in accident at racetrack.


New Coliseum Building (present-day Women’s Museum) built for $108,000.

March 3, 1910

Otto Brodie, taking off from the racetrack infield, makes the first aeroplane flight in Dallas but later wrecks aircraft

October 24, 1910

Comanche Indian Chief Quanah Parker returns to delivers another address in the convention tent on “Quanah Route Day.” Auto race accident injures 8 people, 2 severely, 1 not expected to live.

January 4-10, 1911

Second aviation meet at Fair Park features the 7 celebrated pioneer aviators of International Aviators, Inc.

February 1911

Elks Arch, erected at intersection of Main and Akard in 1908, taken down and re-erected in Fair Park.

April 1911

Park Board buys 7 and 4/10 acres of land at east corner of park from C. Weishel for a little more than $11,000.

May 17-21, 1911

Third aviation meet at Fair Park features 3 celebrated pioneer aviators.

October 1911

Dirigible flights from the racetrack infield. During the State Fair, aeroplane flights by the McCurdy-Willard Aviation Company take place every afternoon from 1 to 6 o’clock from the racetrack infield. After pilot J. A. D. McCurdy’s plane is damaged in a crash landing, aviator Cal Rodgers makes a one-day appearance. Aviator Beckwith Haven finishes with a series of aerial exhibitions.

October 3, 1911

African-American educator Booker T. Washington delivers an address to a biracial audience at the racetrack grandstand

October 28, 1911

New Jersey Governor and future U.S. President Woodrow Wilson speaks at Fair Park Coliseum on “Woodrow Wilson Day.”

March 23-31, 1912

During fourth Dallas aviation meet, aviatrix Mathilde Moisant and 3 pioneer aviators give aerial performances over Fair Park.

Summer 1912

Night Concerts held at Fair Park for the general public.

October 1912

New Women’s Rest Building opens in time for State Fair.

October 13, 1912

American Federation of Labor Vice-President John J. Mitchell speaks at Coliseum.


State of Texas opens a fish hatchery at Fair Park. New wooden Automobile Building constructed.

June 1913

Park Board votes to discontinue “dinky” sightseeing trains at fairgrounds.


First Texas-O.U. football game at Fair Park. Texas wins, 32 to 7.


City of Dallas enlarges Fair Park by purchasing adjoining 13.5 acre Gaston Park (formerly Cycle Park) for $96,500 from banker William Henry Gaston.

February 1914

Aviatrix Katherine Stinson and 3 pioneer pilots give aerial exhibitions over Fair Park.

March 12, 1914

Socialist Party leader and presidential hopeful Eugene V. Debs delivers an address at Fair Park Coliseum.

October 1914

Pioneer aviator Lincoln Beachey gives aerial exhibitions during State Fair.

October 1915

Pioneer aviator Art Smith makes a series of spectacular night flights, using lights and fireworks, during State Fair.

October 18, 1915

Jess Willard boxing match takes place in Fair Park Coliseum.


Bowing to Prohibitionist sentiment, State Fair Association voluntarily bans all liquor sales during State Fair. New football gridiron laid out, with grandstand and bleachers, in time for Fair.

October 1916

Dallas aviator Lester Miller makes flight over Fair Park during State Fair.

October 14, 1916

Sydney Smith Memorial Fountain dedicated.


Fair Park enlarged to 145 acres, a 30 percent increase in size.

February through December, 1918

Camp Dick, a United States Army flying corps cadet training center, established in racetrack infield. No State Fair held this year.

October 1920

State Fair attendance exceeds 1 million for the first time. Mexican President-elect Obregon visits the State Fair.

February 12-18, 1921

Dallas Auto Association holds first show at Fair Park.


15,000 seat football stadium with wooden stands built on east side of Fair Park. Bell Telephone loudspeaker erected.


Automobile-Manufacturers Building constructed on site of old wooden Automobile Building.


Fair Park Coliseum made into Agricultural Building.

October 24, 1923

Ku Klux Klan Day at the State Fair; 300,000 Klansmen, including Imperial Wizard Hiram Evans, attend.


City council votes to rename Fair Park “Gaston Park” but banker William H. Gaston declines the honor.


October: U.S. Navy dirigible Shenandoah appears at Fair Park. Escape artist and illusionist Harry Houdini performs during State Fair.


Fair Park Auditorium (present-day Fair Park Music Hal) constructed for $500,000. Sydney Smith Memorial Fountain moved to front of Auditorium.

June 1926

New Fair Park public swimming pool opens.

July 10, 1927

Seven persons injured in miniature railway accident.

September 30, 1928

Six persons injured in miniature railway accident.


45,507-seat Cotton Bowl stadium constructed; old wooden football stands razed. "Fair-Way" miniature golf course, owned and operated by Charlie Maxwell, opens on former site of Sunken garden.


New band shell erected on site of sunken gardens.


Annual fair is dubbed the “Recovery Fair.” Beer sold for the first time since 1920.


State Fish Hatchery at Fair Park closes to make way for new racetrack.

October 6-27, 1934

Last year of horse racing at Fair Park; betting allowed for first time in 25 years.

June 19, 1935

Work commences on Texas Centennial Exposition; no State Fair this year.

October 2, 1935

Dallas Morning News Alamo replica razed.

October 12, 1935

Governor Allred breaks ground for new Texas Hall of State by pushing a switch that sets off a dynamite blast.

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

Copyright © 2003-2017 by Steven Butler. All rights reserved.