In 1886, 80 acres within the current Fair Park district were privately developed as the site of the first Dallas Texas State Fair. With agreement to lease the site for the State Fair of Texas each year, the City of Dallas purchased the property in 1904 and established it as a public park. In 1906 George Kessler designed a master plan for the park, an effort that precipitated his plan for the City of Dallas five years later.
The 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition marks the most significant period of construction in Fair Park. Following consultation with Paul Cret, the Exposition’s Chief Architect George Dahl and designer Donald Nelson led the remodeling and construction of 77 buildings on the fairgrounds, as well as numerous landscape features including the Works Progress Administration-funded Leonhardt Lagoon and the Esplanade, with a 700-foot-long reflecting pool capped with three fountains. The regional celebration drew over 6 million visitors.
Many Texas Centennial landscape features and nearly all of the buildings survive, complete with restored murals and sculpture. This makes Fair Park - now a 277-acre venue of cultural, entertainment, and sports facilities - the largest intact concentration of 1930s exposition planning, fair buildings and public art in the U.S. The Texas Centennial Exposition Building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986.