Fair Park at Night — ca. 1912
by Paula Bosse
by Paula Bosse
The postcard above — “Luminous Fountain by Night at Fair Park, Dallas” — is one I’ve never seen. And it’s beautiful!
This ornamental fountain was commissioned by the City of Dallas Park Board in 1912 and debuted at that year’s State Fair.
On July 18, 1912, it was reported that the mayor and members of the Park Board were touring Fair Park to see how progress was coming on the new women’s and children’s “comfort station” (restroom and lounge) — during the inspection they decided a fountain would be nice in front of the main exhibition building. Five days later (!), the Park Board voted on it and appropriated $2,500 for the project (approximately $80,000 in today’s money). That afternoon committee members went out to Fair Park and decided it would go “in the middle walk, half way between [the] Exposition Building and the street” (Dallas Morning News, July 23, 1912). And less than a month after that, a design had been made and published. It was to be 30 feet in diameter at the base and 24 feet high. When the State Fair of Texas opened on Oct. 12, 1912, the fountain was completed. It took less than 3 months. From “You know what? A fountain would look real good here…” to DONE!
Dallas Morning News, Aug. 18, 1912
Here’s a photo of it, sans water, from a book published in 1915:
The weirdest little tidbit about this fountain’s debut at the 1912 State Fair is that there was a display of fish swimming around in it, courtesy of the Government Fish Hatchery at San Marcos.
The fountain was in front of the huge Exposition Building. Here’s a circa-1908 depiction of people milling about at night outside the building (a building which really does need a fountain in front of it!).
Back to that top image — I love it. “Illumination” was really big at the time (see “The Grand Elm Street Illumination — 1911”) — I’m surprised I don’t see more postcards like this — even if they’re just fake day-for-night images. A similar “nighttime in Fair Park” postcard is the one below, showing the entrance (this postcard has a 1909 postmark).
Since I have a postcard of the entrance from this same period showing what it looked like during the day (postmarked 1910)….
That star is pretty cool, especially at night.
I’m pretty sure that fountain bit the dust a long, long time ago. Maybe when everything was being revamped for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. It’s a shame. I don’t think there can ever be too many fountains.
Sources & Notes
Top postcard — “Luminous Fountain by Night at Fair Park, Dallas” (postmarked 1913) — is available now on eBay, here; one is also currently available on Card Cow here. I’m pretty sure this is going to be a strong contender for my favorite image of the year.
Photo of “Fountain, Fair Park” is from the book “Park System, Dallas, Texas, 1915,” here — from the Dallas Municipal Archives via the Portal to Texas History.
The postcards have pretty much all come from eBay over the years.
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Any idea where the ” Luminous Fountain” and the “Main Exhibition Hall” may have been located in terms of present day landmarks ?
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A person on the Flashback Dallas Facebook page posted this link, saying it was about where the metal box is (along the present-day Esplanade): https://goo.gl/maps/uVysGV8dgVQ3sKsVA
We native Dallasites naturally think of Fair Park in terms of that 1936 architecture and the additions afterward have largely been done to fit with those buildings. But Fair Park existed long before the Centennial, and I expect very few of us have ever even seen images of what it was like way back then.
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