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A Tour of the Historic Heart of Fair Park

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The Historic Heart

The "Historic Heart" of Fair Park is located on the westernmost portion of an eighty acre parcel sold to the Dallas State Fair and Exposition Association by Dallas banker and civic booster William Henry Gaston in 1886. This is the original core of the park. For more than a hundred years it has been the site of its principal exposition buildings. Although nearly all the earliest structures are no longer standing, subsequent construction for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition has left it the most aesthetically pleasing portion of the grounds.

Before the arrival of Anglo-American settlers in the 1840s, this land was part of a vast expanse of blackland prairie that seemed to go on forever. It's not unlikely that nomadic tribes of Native Americans hunted buffalo where today modern-day park visitors examine mounted bison in the Natural History Museum, located in the park's "Civic Tract." It is equally conceivable that Indians may have erected their teepees alongside the creek that once flowed through what is now Parry Avenue. Perhaps some young brave tested his prowess with the bow and arrow where, above the doors of the Hall of State, a gilt statue of a Tejas warrior stands frozen in the act of hurling aloft a feathered shaft.

Two veterans of the 1836 Texas Revolution, John Grigsby and Thomas Lagow were each rewarded by the Republic of Texas with a league of land located in what is now Dallas County. The entire eighty acre site of the first State Fair was spread out over parts of these two leagues. The boundary line separating Grigsby's land from Lagow's property ran almost exactly through the center of what is now Grand Avenue, one of Fair Park's principal thoroughfares. Almost all the "Historic Heart" lies within what was the Grigsby League while the remainder of Fair Park lies inside the boundaries of the old Lagow League.

Copyright © 2002-2005 by Steven Butler. All rights reserved.