25.58 Willis Cecil Winters Fair Park

ISBN 13: 9780738579399

Fair Park

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9780738579399: Fair Park

In 1936, Texas commemorated the 100th anniversary of its independence from Mexico with a series of statewide celebrations. A central exposition was proposed, with four cities waging a sometimes bitter campaign to secure the rights to stage this auspicious event. At stake for the host city was unparalleled national exposure and a strong economic boost in the midst of the Great Depression. Using the existing grounds and buildings at Fair Park as the basis of its bid, Dallas outhustled and outspent its competitors to be designated as the host city of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. The fair was planned by chief architect George Dahl with legions of talented designers and artists who collaborated to produce one of the great American world's fairs of the 1930s. In addition to the centennial celebration, 1936 marked the 50th anniversary of Fair Park as the site of the great State Fair of Texas. Many of the exhibition structures, livestock barns, and sports and performance venues built for the fair over the previous 50 years were incorporated into the new layout and design of the exposition. The architectural style that was applied to the old and new buildings at Fair Park was described as "Texanic," a combination of Texas iconography and classical motifs with the more spare, streamlined regimen of the moderne style. The result was a revelation to the millions of visitors that attended the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936.

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About the Author:

Willis Winters has directed the ongoing revitalization of Fair Park, including restoration of the park's historic structures and the conservation of the monumental public artwork created for the exposition, for the Dallas Park and Recreation Department since 1993. He is the coauthor of four previous books on Dallas architectural history. The images selected for this book emanate from the collections of the Dallas Municipal Archives, the Texas/Dallas History Division at the Dallas Public Library, the Dallas Historical Society, the State Fair of Texas, and the Library of Congress.

Review:

Title: Park and Rec Assistant Director Willis Winters Talks About His Fair Park History

Author: Robert Wilonsky

Publisher: Dallas Observer

Date: 8/27/2010
Willis Winters, assistant director of the city's Park and Recreation Department, says, with a laugh, that it took him all of 30 days to write his forthcoming Fair Park history. He signed the contract with Arcadia Publishing in March, under the assumption that it wanted the book in time for the 2011 State Fair of Texas. Then he found out: No, sorry, Arcadia actually wanted it for this year's fair.
"But it's been in my brain for 25 years," Winters says. "So writing the book was like a brain dump. I've been doing research on Fair Park for 25 years."
Many of the photos come from the State Fair's archives; the remaining, from the Dallas Municipal Archives, "an incredible tool for a researcher to be able to pull up." There, he says, he discovered the names of the architects responsible for the original buildings, among them the Coliseum built in 1910 (that's a C.D. Hill building -- he also did the downtown Municipal Building). "That was, for me, the greatest surprise during the course of my research -- the quantity of information so readily available from their archives."
He says he'd spend hours studying the photos -- and, mostly, the people in them. He points out: In almost every photo till the '36 Centennial Expo and shortly after, "Everyone's dressed like Sunday for church -- and 1936 was the hottest summer in recorded Dallas history up to that time --109 in August. And people are wearing ties to the fair. My God." He laughs. "And look at the Coliseum -- there was a buggy show during the day, and it became an opera hall at night, and both with the same stage. If you can imagine going to the opera in the summer with a dirt floor and no air conditioning, it must have have brutal."
I tell him: One of the most striking things about the book are the photos of the long-gone buildings. Because while the Coliseum would ultimately become The Women's Museum, other structures -- chief among them a facade on Parry Avenue -- were razed a long time ago. I asked if he's saddened by what's no longer there.
"Yes and no," he says. "I am a great fan of the city's old architecture. Dallas Rediscovered is one of my favorite books. But to know it's been replaced by something even better -- the greatest collection of Art Deco archiutecture in the world -- eases the pain a little bit. One thing I hope people take away from the book is that there's a 50-year history before the Art Deco architecture.
"Many of the original buildings are still there -- they're just hidden. That's another layer of history Fair Park has that no other comparable site ha sin the country: It's 50 years of State Fair and city park buildings incorporated and subsumed by the Centennial Exposition, and even over in the original Livestock Arena, it's still in there from 1915. It had a very innovative structural roof buried in there. It's an incredible overlay of history that was resurfaced by George Dahl."

Title: A Look Back at a Time When State Fair-Goers Wore Ties to the Midway and Shot the Chute

Author: Robert Wilonsky

Publisher: Dallas Observer

Date: 8/25/2010
Back in June, upon the occasion of the release of City Archivist John Slate's Historic Dallas Parks, I mentioned yet another history book was forthcoming from Arcadia Publishing: Willis Winters's Fair Park. At the time there was no release date set, only "closer to the State Fair of Texas," but a copy of the book, written and compiled by Park and Rec's vaunted assistant director, just landed in my mailbox, and I've spent --Dallas Observer

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