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A Tour of the Historic Heart of Fair Park

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Founders' Statue & Frank P. Holland Court

Founders Statue

Sculptor Jose Martin with Founders Statue c. 1936
Sculptor Jose Martin with the Founders Statue, about 1938. Photo courtesy Lucille Martin.

The area immediately inside the Parry Avenue entrance seems to have had no particular name until the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. At that time it was christened the "Grand Plaza." Two years later the area was re-named "Frank P. Holland Court," to honor the man who first conceived the idea of holding an annual state fair in Dallas. Publisher of the periodical Farm and Ranch, Holland also served a term as mayor of Dallas in 1893. Over the years this recognition of Holland seems to have been forgotten. For reasons which are uncertain, the name "Frank P. Holland Court" no longer appears on maps of Fair Park.

In this area stands a pressed concrete statue of a heroic female figure. It was designed by Raoul Josset and executed by Joseph "Jose" Martin, two French sculptors who were among the many artists who worked on the Texas Centennial Exposition's transformation of Fair Park between 1935 and 1936. Known as the "Founder's Statue," it was erected in 1938 and dedicated at ceremonies on the opening day of that year's fair, which was billed as the "Golden Jubilee Celebration" of the fair's 50th anniversary (although the commemoration was two years late, on account of the 1936 Centennial Exposition and 1937 Pan-American Exposition).

The statue was constructed to memorialize the founders of the State Fair of Texas. In addition, it pays tribute to the role of the Press in supporting and publicizing the annual event. At the statue's base is an iron crypt. Made of ore mined in Cherokee County, Texas, it once contained the front pages of three-hundred Texas newspapers for October 8, 1938, the date of the dedication. At the ceremonies, attended by some three-hundred descendants of the founders, the statue was unveiled by the Fair's 1912 president, Mr. J. J. Eckford. Senator Tom Connally was the guest speaker. The key to the crypt was handed over to the Texas Press Association for safe-keeping until the crypt's scheduled re-opening, fifty years from the date it was sealed. Unfortunately, when officials took a "sneak peek" inside the crypt, just before the 1988 State Fair, it was discovered that the vault had not been well-sealed and had leaked. When the bundle of deteriorating newspapers was touched, they crumbled into dust. As a result, ceremonies for the opening of the crypt were cancelled.

Raised letters on the front of the base of the Founder's Statue read:

To Perpetuate
The Memory of
Builders of the
State Fair of

Immediately below the base, on the concrete lid of the crypt, are the words:

A Debt of
To the Press of

On one side of the base are listed the "Signers of the Charter of 1886". These were, in the order they appear on the monument: Jules N. Schneider; J. S. Armstrong; Jas. B. Simpson; Alex Sanger; C. A. Keating; O. P. Bowser; J. M. Wendelken; Thos. Field; and W. H. Gaston. The opposite side of the base has a list of the "Signers of the Charter of '04" - 1904 being the year the "Texas State Fair" was reorganized as the "State Fair of Texas". These later signers were, in the order shown on the base: Chas. A. Margold; C. A. Keating; Alex Sanger; Royal A. Ferris; F. P. Holland; Sam P. Cochran; A. P. Tenison; Fred F. Sliney; W. H. Gaston; Jas. Moroney; H. Belo; J. C. Duke; and E. M. Kahn.

On the reverse side of the base, facing the park, are listed the fair's presidents from 1886 to 1938. A number of the men who served in that capacity were also among those who had signed one or the other (or both) of the two charters. They were: James B. Simpson, 1886; James Moroney, 1887 and 1906-`07; J. S. Armstrong, 1888 and 1890; Henry Exall, 1889; W. C. Connor, 1891; J. E. Schneider, 1892; John N. Simpson, 1893 and 1919; Alex Sanger, 1894; John T. Trezevant, 1895 and `96; Lawrence M. Knepfly, 1897; William H. Gaston, 1898-1903; Cecil A. Keating, 1904 and `05; Edwin J. Kiest, 1908-1911 and 1920-`21; J. J. Eckford, 1912 and `13; W. I. Yopp, 1914 and `15; R. E. L. Knight, 1916-`18; Harry Olmsted, 1922-`24 and 1928; A. A. Jackson, 1925-`26; Louis Lipsitz, 1927; T. E. Jackson, 1929-`31; Otto Herold, 1932-`33 and 1935 and 1938; Rosser J. Coke, 1934. There was no state fair president for 1936 or 1937 on account of the Texas Centennial and Pan-American expositions being held during those years.

Copyright © 1996-2012 by Steven Butler, Ph.D. All rights reserved.