‘Yes’ on Prop C, to preserve and repair Fair Park
The rats gnawing around the treasured Hall of State archives are glad to have the run of Fair Park. Same for the encroaching algae oozing a stone-dissolving acid as it works its way across the historic buildings.
And those aren’t even the worst of the threats to this South Dallas gem. The very infrastructure of these grand buildings is in danger of failing, as the wall-strengthening steel, now exposed to the elements, begins to corrode.
What shameful stewards we’ve been of the work of long-ago architects and artisans, those responsible not only for one of the world ’s largest collections of art deco buildings but who created the exquisite details of the doorknobs, the light standards, the window coverings and so much more.
Dallas voices are quick to bemoan the fate of an all-but-disintegrated Victorian house along the freeway or the razing of a beloved bar. But what about the demolition by neglect of Fair Park, the architectural jewel of the city?
Too often, the city has shorted Fair Park on its maintenance needs, resulting in a monument teetering on the edge of becoming a cracked-open, falling-apart and often-flooded mess. Even more tragic, this is happening at a location with perhaps the biggest potential to lift the South Dallas neighborhoods that surround it.
It’s time to reverse this indifferent oversight and begin to repair and preserve these buildings, many of them constructed during the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition.
That’s why this newspaper recommends a “yes” vote on the city of Dallas Proposition C, which would allocate $50 million in bonds for the repair and rehabilitation of Fair Park facilities. (The estimated repayment, including interest, will be $67.8 million.)
If approved, paying off this bond will not require a tax-rate increase, according to city staff calculations.
As Dallas has bickered over who should run Fair Park, too often lost in the debate is this: These buildings must be repaired, regardless of who’s in charge.
Most of the venues that would benefit from these bond dollars house worthy yearround operations. Their tenants keep the vitality in Fair Park, from the Music Hall and the African American Museum to the Hall of State, home to the Dallas Historical Society and a trove of invaluable documents.
Even the casual visitor can spot the decay creeping through Fair Park: Historic metal windows and highly decorative doors already so rusted that soon they will be beyond repair. Damage in the ceiling of the Hall of Heroes; portable fans dr y ing out flood sin lecture facilities. Colorful facades peeling away, inside and out.
Beyond the visible crumbling is a daunting punch list of plumbing, electrical and structural stabilization work. Here’s just one hazardous example: An electrical vault regularly hosts a foot of standing water — with high-voltage equipment just overhead. Workers have to pump out the room whenever access is needed.
Failure to get a grip on things will only result in more damage and push away partners, both current and prospective ones.
And to those asking why the State Fair of Texas doesn’t bankroll the reconstruction, remember that this bond involves buildings outside the fair’s purview. While the State Fair agreed in June to provide the cit y with millions of dollars for maintenance and improvements, t hose renovations are for other structure son the 277-acre park.
Recently, Adrian Benepe, the former New York City parks commissioner who’s now the director of city park development for The Trust for Public Land, told our colleague Robert Wilonsky that other cities would kill to have Fair Park .“The glass is half-full — because it’s here,” Benepe said. “Sure, the challenge is what to do about it. But at least you have it.”
Indeed we do — for now. It’s time more than nostalgia propped up Fair Park’s shaky future. Vote yes to save this fragile national landmark.
This is one of the Hall of State’s rusting and peeling doors.
The ground-level south entrance to the Hall of State at Fair Park shows damage from water, algae and age.
The area around the side door of the Magnolia Lounge at Fair Park is crumbling.