GFF, Fair Park, and The State Fair of Texas:
A Thirty-Year Relationship

We are excited about the opening of this year’s State Fair of Texas and proud of GFF’s role in the preservation and ongoing revitalization of Fair Park. Centennial Architect George Dahl and his staff created a Beaux Arts campus of “Texanic” Art Deco buildings for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exhibition, and that campus is now a unique cultural resource and one of Dallas’ few National Register Historic Districts.

Since 1994, GFF’s Historic Preservation practice has collaborated with both the Dallas Park & Recreation Department and the State Fair of Texas on more than thirty projects, including multiple planning, assessment, and construction projects in the Agrarian District of the park and beyond. Rehabilitation of Fair Park has long been a passion at GFF, and we are students of Fair Park history, conducting tours and giving lectures on the Art and Architecture of the Texas Centennial Exhibition.

GFF’s projects at the Food & Fiber building, Embarcadero building, Poultry Building Pylon, and Pan American Arena face one another across Nimitz Drive. Together, these buildings provide exhibit space and serve as the backdrop to one of the busiest outdoor food & beverage zones during the State Fair. The buildings were each restored in multiple phases, first focused on stabilization and the introduction of HVAC systems, and second on exterior repairs, restoration of the historic scheme of 27 colors, and reconstruction of missing elements. Decorative color banding and patterns were restored at Food & Fiber and Embarcadero, along with the distinctive chrome yellow at the Poultry Building Pylon. The Pylon anchors an important visual axis through the agrarian district and its historic 30-foot-tall color-changing light panel was restored to operation. All four of these projects were recognized with awards for achievement in Historic preservation. Our team is currently working on exterior rehabilitation projects at the Tower Building and Pan American Arena, both scheduled for construction in 2023.

The Briscoe Carpenter Livestock Center, the first new building in decades to be constructed in the historic context of Fair Park, reinterprets the architecture of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exhibition to meet modern functional and technical requirements. The new facility replaced an outdoor auction barn and now provides exhibit space, a stepped-floor auction arena, and animal holding areas, along with a banquet facility, dining and lounge areas, and year-round offices for State Fair livestock department staff. The building is the new home for the Heritage Hall of Honor, a museum of images and artifacts honoring the rich history of ranching in Texas.

GFF also worked directly with the State Fair of Texas to site, design, and oversee construction for the Top o’ Texas Tower Ride on the Midway, along with associated amenities to serve Fair-time crowds. Working to create a sense of place at the base of the ride that was complementary to the scale and experience of the ride itself, the GFF Architecture and Landscape team designed a tensile fabric structure gateway, visitor queue, and shade structure. Visible from more than a mile away, the 500-foot-tall Tower Ride accommodates a hundred passengers at a time, providing panoramic views of Fair Park and vicinity.

GFF has developed long-term relationships with the great people whose jobs involve the protection, maintenance, management, and operation of this important landmark.  We look forward to many more opportunities to steward the preservation and enhancement of Fair Park for future generations.


Jonathan Rollins at
Chris Andersen at
Morgan Harrison at