the left of the Founders
Statue lies the former home of the Women's Museum. Construction
of the building began in 1909 at a cost of 108,000 dollars, almost
half of it funded by public donations. Fair Park Coliseum
opened a year later on land that was previously used for baseball
games and livestock events. Originally built for the purpose of
hosting horse shows, animal exhibits, and livestock auctions, the
place was designed by architect James Edward Flanders.
Flanders began his career in Chicago working as an apprentice. He
then moved to Minnesota, but transfered to Dallas
a year later in 1876 because the city desperately needed architects,
thanks to the constant growth it was experiencing. Flanders spent
most of his time designing several of the downtown commercial buildings
and residential projects. After a brief stint in San Diego, California,
he began focusing on churches and schools. During his 55-year career,
he designed over three hundred structures. Most of them were located
in the Dallas area, but he also did work in West Texas, Oklahoma,
California, Arkansas, and Missouri. His most notable works included
County Courthouse, Navarro
County Courthouse, and Hollywood's Hotel Dupont.
that Flanders built had the seating capacity of eight thousand.
Because of its size, the building also hosted musical and theatrical
entertainment, though these events mostly took place at night while
the livestock shows occurred during the day. The stage was fifty
feet long and thirty-six feet wide with twenty-four available dressing
room nearby. This amount of space made the Fair Park Coliseum a
popular place for companies to visit and perform, despite the low-quality
acoustics resulting from the building's spacial design. In addition
to the entertainment and livestock, the place also served as a venue
for car shows and public speeches. The most famous speech was the
one given by Woodrow Wilson in 1911 while campaigning for the Democratic
When Fair Park
Auditorium, now called Music
Hall, opened in 1925, the coliseum returned to its beginning
roots. However, it also hosted agricultural exhibits and car shows.
In 1935, in preparation for the centennial celebration, the interior
was remodeled so it could serve as the administration building for
the exposition. George Dahl also gave the order to renovate the
Park Women's Museum
Photo courtesy Clint Skinner, February 2016
In front of
the building, Raoul Josset
designed a reflecting pool for Jose Martin to sculpt. The artwork
needed for the pool came in the form of a fountain located in the
back. The fountain depicted a group of fish jumping out of the water
and diving back in. A tall mural and large female statue, together
forming an artwork called Spirit of the Centennial, stood behind
it. The two Frenchmen chose Georgia Carroll to be the model, who
would later become a famous singer for her participation in Kay
Kyser's big band, known as the Kollege of Musical Knowledge. The
twenty-foot statue itself was a nude woman standing on saguaro cactus.
The mural was the work of Italian artist Carlo Ciampaglia. Although
he was born in the boot-shaped nation, Carlo spent his childhood
and artistic training in New York City. He then traveled to Rome
in his native homeland for additional training. He spent most of
his time doing design and decorative work for places such as the
Chapel of the Fairmount Mousoleum, the Sunbury Court House, the
Masonic Temple in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the New York home of David
Milton, and the Food Building of the 1939 New York World's Fair.
building fell into a state of disrepair and neglect, which continued
until the Women's Museum took over operations. The museum was the
brainchild of Cathy Bonner. She was in charge of several marketing
and advertising companies, one of them responsible for helping twelve
state programs dealing with college aide. In addition to her business
endeavors, Bonner served former governor Ann Richards by becoming
the executive director of the Texas Department of Commerce and working
to improve the economy. However, this was not the first time that
the two women had worked together.
In 1975, before
she got heavily involved with politics, Ann Richards took her family
to San Antonio to
see a special show about the state's history at the Institute of
Texan Cultures. Amazingly, not a single woman was mentioned throughout
the presentation. Richards decided that she would find out more
about the role women played in Texas history. She looked in textbooks
and exhibitions for answers, but came up empty every time.
Not to be deterred,
Richards formed the Texas Foundation for Women's Resources, which
Cathy Bonner joined and became one of the organization's founders.
They started working on their first endeavor and called it the Texas
Women's History Project. With Mary Beth Rogers as the director and
Ruthe Winegarten in charge of research, the members joined forces
with a team of historians, college students, and other volunteers
to find and preserve women's role in Texas history. Five years after
Ann's inspiration, the organization finally accomplished its goal
of presenting a history of Texas Women. The result was a traveling
museum that moved from place to place throughout the state. Texas
Women: A Celebration of History lasted for two years and can
be viewed at the Blagg-Huey Library in Denton.
up with the idea for a permanent women's museum in 1996 as a result
of a recurring dream. Wanting to make her dream a reality, she started
to look for the place. She contacted an organization called the
Friend of Fair Park, which provided a tour of the grounds. Bonner
took a look at the artistic work known as Spirit of the Centennial
and decided that the building would serve as the perfect host for
the museum. With the help of the Texas Foundation for Women's Resources,
she was able to raise thirty million dollars for the project.
Work on the
exterior began in 1998 and included the restoration of the statue,
mural, and pool. Stashka Star handled the centennial art while conservation
expert John Dennis dealt with the fountain. Wendy Evans Joseph,
who worked on the Holocaust Memorial Museum in the nation's capital,
designed the interior. However, the various exhibits themselves
were done by Whirlwind Creative, a company located in Harrisburg,
North Carolina. All the construction was performed by a local company
called F & S Partners.
Photo by Andreas Praefcker*
Museum opened as an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution on
September 29, 2000. A significant portion of the first floor was
composed of open, empty space used for special events, dinners,
and meetings. In addition, the floor had areas dedicated to art
galleries, visiting exhibits, and classrooms for various children's
activities. The second floor hosted a series of historical exhibits
which included displays paying tribute to influential females, a
timeline combining text and memorabilia, and informational videos.
The third floors devoted itself to health-related subjects.
for the museum, it faced a series of financial struggles caused
by a lack of funding. According to records released in 2007, it
had a deficit of 600,000 dollars which doubles the following year.
This number increased to 1,300,000 in 2009. The
continued failure to make a profit led to the decision to close
the Women's Museum in 2011.
Since the closure of the museum, the building has remained empty
and closed throughout the year, except during the state fair when
it is used to host Mundo Latino.
It serves as a celebration of the Latin American cultures throughout
Central and South America. The first floor host a variety of attractions.
Along the perimeter, merchants sell products that are indicative
of their home country and culture. Near the back area, a wooden
stage allows a wide range of live entertainment to take place, most
of it coming from local schools, singers, dancers, and musicians.
The floor also displays historic exhibits that have the tendency
to mirror the fair's theme for the year. The second floor, which
is empty for the most part, hosts a pictorial tribute to those who
have fought and died on the battlefield. The third floor also has
a pictorial tribute, but it focuses on the memories of Little Mexico.
Mexico was a small community located in the downtown area, the first
one to host a fully-Hispanic population. It was located south of
Riverchon Park with McKinney Avenue running along the bottom border,
Maple Avenue serving as the eastern barrier, and Stemmons Freeway
traveling past the left side. Originally settled by Jewish immigrants
from Poland during the 1800s, the neighborhood was flooded by people
seeking refuge from the Mexican Revolution, which started in 1910
and lasted for ten years. During this time, the Jews left the neighborhood
as the Hispanic population continued to grow.
Little Mexico received it name in 1919. The area was a poor, overpopulated
neighborhood with substandard housing, unpaved roads, and no health
care facilities. Some improvements occurred over the years and the
1950s were a time of redevelopment.
The beginning of the end arrived in 1966 with the construction of
the Dallas North Tollway straight through the middle of the neighborhood.
Compounded by Woodall Rodgers Freeway on the southern portion of
the area, Little Mexico had an uphill climb if it wanted to expand.
While this was going on, several businesses wanted to use the area.
Many of the houses were bought and demolished for redevelopment
and the construction of large buildings began. Very little of the
neighborhood still exists, the two major remnants being Pike Park
and the birthplace of nation's oldest Mexican restaurant chain.
El Fenix was started by Miguel Martinez, an immigrant who fled Mexico
to escape from the revolution started by the removal of President
Porfirio Diaz. Miguel opened a restaurant in 1916 and called it
Martinez Café, resulting in the introduction of Tex-Mex cuisine.
Two years later, he changed its name to El Fenix because he believed
in the practice of trying to turn failures into successes. His restaurant
became so successful, he bought the building next door and transformed
it into the El Fenix Ballroom during the 1930s. It featured live
music from an orchestra while patron could enjoy an evening of dancing.
Martinez decided to retire in 1946 and gave the business to his
four sons. Since that time, El Fenix has grown into a full-fledged
chain of restaurants.
© Clint Skinner
All the pictures that are not mine are either public domain or creative
commons. I provided the photographer's name.
3.Dallas Morning News Archives
5.Slate, John H. Historic Dallas Parks. Arcadia Publishing, 2010.
8.Winters, Willis Cecil. Fair Park. Arcadia Publishing, 2010.