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Dallas, Texas


National Historical Landmark

by Clint Skinner

12. Hall of State

Beyond the esplanade stands the Hall of State, built as a structure to complement the pool and two buildings. The T-shaped museum currently serves as the home of the Dallas Historical Society. The organization was founded by George Dealey, the vice-president and general manager of The Dallas Morning News, with the help of one hundred members in March 1922. After receiving its charter from the government, the society focused on its main goal of preserving local and state history through the collection of artifacts and literature. It also wanted to broaden the public's awareness of the rich past using its acquired resources. The organization originally held its meetings and stored its collections at one of the many libraries at Southern Methodist University. This changed in 1938 when the city of Dallas agreed to rent the Hall of State from the Texas government, then handed the responsibility of operating the building to the Dallas Historical Society. In 1977, the rental agreement came to a close when complete ownership of the facility was given to the city.

Dallas Fair Park - Hall Of State
Fair Park - Hall Of State
Photo courtesy Clint Skinner, February 2016

The Hall of State currently serves as a museum and research facility. Making sure that the place continues to carry out these functions, the society has over 8,000 books and 13,000 objects. The collection of artifacts include blueprints, maps, periodicals, journals, artwork, photographs, and historical memorabilia. In addition to putting them on display, the society uses them for educational outreach programs. Schoolchildren can take tours of the building while adults can use its extensive library for research or reserve space for a special event. Regardless of age, people can visit the museum for free.

1936 Texas  Centennial  Exposition  in Dallas aerial photo left enlarged
No. 6 - Texas Hall of State
(1936 Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas - Aereal photo left)
Click on image for full view

Courtesy Sarah Reveley

The Hall of State, however, did not begin as a museum. It started as the centerpiece of the esplanade during the Texas Centennial Exposition. To emphasize its importance, George Dahl placed it at the top of the pool and its two neighbors. Construction began in 1935 and finished in September 1936, three months after the expo started. The structure would have been ready by the grand opening, but difficulties with the indoor decoration prevented its availability to the public. When it opened as the State of Texas Building, it became the most expensive building in Texas per foot, thanks to its large price tag of 1.2 million dollars. The limestone structure was 1,500 foot long and sported a combination of classicism and art deco. The design of the entire building was done by a Texan named Donald Barthelme.

Originally from Galveston, Barthelme attended the Rice Institute in Houston, but transferred to the University of Pennsylvania to complete his education. He worked as an architect in Philadelphia after he graduated in 1930. However, he only stayed there for two years before returning to Texas. Donald worked on several projects, but his largest endeavor was the Hall of State. He continued his career of designing and constructing buildings while serving as a teacher at the University of Houston. Among his many works were Avion Village in Grand Prairie, Webb Air Force Base in Big Spring, and the St. Rose of Lima Church and School in Houston. In addition to these accomplishments, he designed various schools in Brazoria County.

Dallas Fair Park - Hall Of State Robert L. Thornton Statue
Robert L. Thornton

Photo courtesy Clint Skinner

Four lamp posts, two on the left and two on the right, mark the entrance to the terrace known as the Court of Honor. Each one has six bronze figures that represent the six nations that have influenced Texas. Standing in a circle on a concrete base, the hand-crafted artwork depicts a Spanish Conquistador, French aristocrat, Mexican general, Texas pioneer, Confederate leader, and American soldier. After passing these lamp posts, visitors walk along the terrace toward the main entrance. In the corner of this flat area, a bronze statue pays tribute to Robert L. Thornton.

The influential mayor was born in 1880 near Hico, Texas. However, his parents lost their farm and moved to Village Creek. He spent much of his early childhood picking cotton while attending school. After graduating from the eighth grade, Robert began work as a store clerk. He used this money to attend a business class, then became a traveling salesman in the region. He tried to start his own business twice, a book store and a mortgage company, and failed miserably on both accounts. Nevertheless, he refused to give up. Robert combined his financial resources with his two brothers-in-laws to form a private banking company in 1916 and called it Stiles, Thornton, and Lund. A year later, the new enterprise became responsible for the administration of the Dallas County State Bank. His success in the financial sector led to a one-year term as the president of the Texas Bankers Association. Thornton soon expanded his business endeavors. He became vice president of the Tex-O-Kan Flour Mills Company and United Fidelity Life Insurance Company. He also served as a director for Dallas Power and Light, Lone Star Steel, Southwestern Life Insurance, the Dallas Hotel Company, and the Weatherford, Mineral Wells and Northwestern Railway.

In 1928, he organized a nonprofit organization called Industrial Dallas, Inc. to bring industry to the city. He became the president of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce in 1933 and remained there for three years. Robert played an important part during this tenure in making sure that Dallas became the location for the centennial celebration. After the grand event, he left the chamber and served as a director of the upcoming Pan-American Exposition. In 1945, he served as the president of the State Fair of Texas for fifteen years and received credit for making it the largest one in America. Robert Thornton became the city's mayor in 1953. During his eight years in office, he expanded Love Field Airport and built a new city hall, library, and auditorium. He also helped in making the Forney Dam a reality, providing a new water resource in the process. Thornton died three years after he stepped down from his mayoral office. His deep commitment and many achievements led the local press to call him Mr. Dallas. In recognition for his service, the city council named two highways after the man who started life as a cotton farm.

Leaving the Court of Honor, visitors traverse the semi-circular Portico Tejas before entering the building. Concrete benches along the left and right wings allow people to rest near the art deco chandeliers. On the exterior of the wings, the names of historic figures in the state's past are carved in a frieze that wraps around the entire building. Each name is accompanied by a native Texas plant. Altogether, there are fifty-nine Texans represented on the frieze.

Dallas TX - Fair Park Hall Of State Allegorical Detail by Sculptor Harry Lee Gibson
Photo courtesy of Mike Price, September 2009

At the entrance itself, there are four seventy-six-foot pillars that reach a carving called The Symbolic Seal of Texas. Designed by Barthelme and sculpted by local artist Henry Lee Gibson, the bas relief depicts a woman behind a shield. The woman is called the Lady of Texas and the shield protecting her has the state flag's design on it. The lady holds a fire representing patriotism. Perched next to her, an owl symbolizes wisdom and holds a key that stands for prosperity and progress. Pecan leaves belonging to the official state tree decorate the background.

Dallas TX Centennial Expo Entry
Courtesy Sarah Reveley
Tejas Warrior Fair Park Dallas Texas
Tejas Warrior
Photo courtesy Jason Grant, 2006

The limestone columns leading to the bas relief are placed in front of a mosaic layer of blue tiles representing a field of bluebonnets. In the middle, an eleven-foot tall statue of a Native American stands above the main door. Made out of bronze and covered in gold leaf, Tejas Warrior presents the role that Indians played in Texas history. The arrowless bow that the warrior holds in his hands symbolizes peace. The statue greeting visitors was the work of sculptor Allie Victoria Tennant.

Born in Missouri during 1898, Allie made her first sculpture when she was only eight years old. After spending most of her life in Dallas, she moved to New York City to study at the Art Students League. Tennant returned to Dallas and began making statues, fountain features, portrait busts, and other forms of sculptural art using bronze as her preferred medium. In addition to her work at the Hall of State, Allie Tennant also provided her skills for the Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park, the James Butler Bonham Memorial in Bonham, and the Antonio Navarro Memorial in Corsicana. She later wrote columns for the Dallas Morning News and taught at the Dallas Art Institute.

Below the statue Tejas Warrior, five double-doors made of bronze lead to the building's interior. They are decorated with symbols of agriculture and industry. Farming is represented by wheat sheaves and cotton plants, the timber industry is symbolized by saw blades and pine cones, the oil industry is presented through derricks, and ranching is depicted through cattle, horses, lariats, and hooves. The designs of these doors were made by Barthelme.

Dallas TX Centennial Expo Hall

Dallas TX Centennial Expo Hall
Bronze statues in the Hall of Heroes
From "Monuments Commemorating the Centenary of Texas Independence", State of Texas, 1938
Courtesy Sarah Reveley

The five doors of the main entrance lead into the Hall of Heroes, a long corridor with a marble floor. A frieze along the top of the wall provides the names of battles which occurred during the Texas Revolution. There are also two plaques, one paying tribute to those who died at the Alamo and another commemorating the Battle of San Jacinto. The biggest feature of the hall, however, is the life-sized bronze statues of six prominent Texans. Lined along the semi-circular corridor, they honor the memories of Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Mirabeau B. Lamar, James Fannin, Thomas Rusk, and William B. Travis. These statues were the work of Italian artist Pompeo Luigi Coppini.

Pompeo began his artist career at the age of ten by making ceramic whistles shaped like a horse. He then used his skills by making imitations of artistic masterpieces and selling them to tourists. In 1896, he moved to New York and obtained a job at a wax museum. He moved to San Antonio in 1901 and stayed there for the next fifteen years. It was during this time that Pompeo began building his reputation as a sculptor through various projects. In 1934, he was hired to design the Texas Centennial half dollar before receiving a contract to make the Hall of Heroes statues. In addition to his work for the exposition, he was also responsible for the Monument to Terry's Texas Rangers and the Littlefield Memorial Fountain in Austin, the Sam Houston Grave Monument in Huntsville, the Cenotaph to the Heroes of the Alamo in San Antonio, and the Come and Take It Monument in Gonzales.

At both ends of the Hall of Heroes, there is a chamber divided into two rooms. Each room is dedicated to a different area of the state and covers at least 1,300 square feet. The East Texas and West Texas rooms lie to the left of the hall. Used to display relics and artwork from the past, the East Texas Room has walls made out of the wood from dark gum trees.

Although the exhibits may change from time to time, two pieces of artwork remain the same. Artist Olin Travis, the co-founder of the Dallas Art Institute, was hired to paint a pair of murals to depict the Eastern region of the Lone Star State before and after the great oil boom. The first mural shows a pine forest being harvested for the lumber industry while the second one displays oil derricks among a cloud of smoke with a large, urban city in the background.

Two glass doors in the back lead to the West Texas Room. It has wooden ceiling beams that have two chandeliers hanging from them. Below the beams, the tile floor carries a cactus motif. Three of the walls resemble an adobe style, but the fourth one is made out of cowhide. In front of the cowhide stands a wooden cowboy figure made by local sculptor Dorothy Austin. Tiles along the adobe walls show an Indian, pioneer, wrangler, sheriff, sheep herder, and guitar player. A tabletop near the entrance displays a bronze bust of David Crockett which was donated by artist William Easley. Above the cowhide, there is a mural of a cowboy surrounded by ranchers and cattle. On the other side of the room, another mural depicts three people riding a horse wagon. Both of the paintings were the work of Tom Lea, a resident of El Paso. Although he made plenty of memorable pieces, Tom became famous for working as a war artist and correspondent for Life Magazine. The most popular paintings were the ones he produced while covering the western part of the Pacific, especially those dealing with the Battle of Peleliu.

From 1987 to 1989, the Hall of State underwent some remodeling. A part of the process was the transformation of the West Room from an exhibition chamber into a library for researchers. When the project was completed, officials named the place the George B. Dealey Library. It currently has 2.5 million documents, 3,000 photographs, 14,000 books, and 3,000 periodicals. An appointment made in advance is the only way to take advantage of the resources or enjoy the artwork contained within its walls.

The North Texas and South Texas rooms are located to the right of the hall. Like the other chamber, the area is divided into two rooms that display historic exhibits. Photographs of the state's northern region taken by Polly Smith, the one responsible for taking pictures for the exposition's marketing campaign, decorate the sides of the room. Above the entrance inside the chamber, there is a fresco painted on the wall's plaster. A local citizen named Arthur Starr Niendorff used his talents to make the artwork, which depicts a character named Old Man Texas. First imagined by John Knott, an editorial cartoonist at the Dallas Morning News, the old man is shown wrapping his arms around Dallas on one side and Fort Worth on the other with a family in the middle. The character is surrounded by objects representing different things. A farm symbolizes the area's agricultural industry, a plane and train stand as icons of transportation, a vault and ticker tape machine represent the financial and business aspects of the region respectively, the books in front of the vault stress the importance of education, and a turbine symbolizes the manufacturing industry.

Along the walls between the windows of the South Texas Room, there are eight painted figures representing life in the region. They include a farmer, a grapefruit picker, a dock-worker, a priest, a cotton picker, and a woman wearing a swimsuit. A craftsman named Lynn Ford made two wood carvings representing history and romance, both located above the entryway. On the other side, a mural painted by James Owen Mahoney, Jr. shows a woman standing for the southern region of the state with her surroundings symbolizing the riches of the land and sea.

The Hall of Six Flags, more commonly known as the Great Hall, is the largest room in the building. Located along the center of the Hall of Heroes across from the main entrance, it covers 6,365 square feet and reaches a height of forty-six feet. The six flags that flew over Texas hang from the inner walls next to the entrance, three on the left side and three on the right. Above the entrance is a quote from Mirabeau B. Lamar that reads, "And well may we be proud to see our national standard float side by side in the breeze with Star Spangled Banner of the Fatherland."

The ceiling is painted a variety of colors and looks like a carpet. In addition, an artist from Yale University named George Davidson hand-stenciled several patterns and four icons on the surface. The icons were Aztec-style representations of an armadillo, an abstract symbolizing land, an abstract symbolizing the sea, and a roadrunner with a rattlesnake in its beak. Ten chandeliers hang from this ceiling and helps bring illumination to the room. The floor below is made out of green Vermont marble and has four stripes of San Saba stone that begin at the entrance and end at the back. The floor also contains tiles that represent wildlife found in the state. They include the tarpon, Texas horned lizard, javelina, black-tailed prairie dog, northern mockingbird, golden eagle, turkey, giant roadrunner, black-tailed jackrabbit, nine-banded armadillo, western diamondback rattlesnake, and American alligator. At the head of each tile is a high-back chair that sits in front of a pillar made from limestone. Behind the pillars along the walls, silver doors remain locked to the public. One of them is replaced by a marble slab with a bronze medallion that honors the memory of George B. Dealey.

On the back wall lies a large gold bas-relief covered with burnished gold leaf medallion that has a diameter of twelve feet. Shaped like a medallion, it was made by Joseph Renier, a professor at Yale University. The artwork has a large, five-pointed star in the middle. In each area between the points, there is a woman who represents one of the six flags over Texas. All of them have a shield with the appropriate symbols of the nation being honored. Anson Jones, one of the presidents of the Texas Republic, has one of his many quotes placed above the medallion. It reads, "The Lone Star of Texas has passed on and become fixed in that glorious constellation which all freemen and lovers of freedom must reverence and adore - the American Union."

Dallas Fair Park Hall Of State - History of Texas mural
History of Texas mural on the left
Photo courtesy Quester Mark, March 2008*

The neighboring walls of the gold medallion showcase two murals painted by Eugene Francis Savage. Born in Covington, Indiana, the artist spent his time studying in Chicago and Rome. He finished his education at Yale University and later served as a professor there. Savage became well-known for the art he made during his tenure working for the Works Progress Administration. In addition to the ones he painted at the Hall of State, he produced murals depicting the Hawaiian and Seminole lifestyles. After World War II ended, he installed a glass mosaic depicting the events of Operation Dragoon, the Allied landing of Southern France that expanded into a campaign through Germany. Savage was also responsible for the Alma Mater mural at the Sterling Memorial Library of Yale University.

When Eugene Savage received his contract regarding the Hall of State, officials instructed him to make two murals depicting the history of Texas. He followed their orders in an untraditional way by refusing to directly paint them on the walls. Instead, he performed the task on a canvas, then placed them on the hall surfaces. With the help of four artists, he was able to finish the project in five months.

Each of the two murals is thirty feet long and eighty feet wide. The one on the left tells the story of Texas from the Spanish explorers known as Conquistadors to the Battle of San Jacinto. Instead of doing it chronologically, however, the tale starts on the different ends and works its way to the center. The mural on the right depicts Texas during its period of statehood. The left side shows various historical figures, three women representing the restoration of the Union after the Civil War, and the agricultural aspects of the state. The right side displays the various forms of industry like lumber and oil. At the center of the painting, the importance of education and its influence on the future is symbolized through a woman holding a torch in front of a group of children.

Dallas Fair Park Hall Of State - History of Texas mural
History of Texas mural on the right
Photo courtesy Quester Mark, March 2008*

The offices of the Dallas Historical Society and its archival storage are located on the lower lever. At one time, it served as the location of the American Museum of Miniature Arts, which exhibited a wide range of house and furniture models of houses. Unfortunately, what happened to the collection remains a mystery. The other main feature of the floor is the Margaret and Al Hill Auditorium, named after the former director of the DHS and her husband. She also played an important part in the establishment of the East Texas Oil Field Museum in Kilgore, Texas.

Statue of Liberty

Dallas Fair Park - Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty
Photo courtesy Clint Skinner, February 2016

A miniature version of the Statue of Liberty stands on the left side of the Hall of State's Court of Honor. In 1950, it was given to Fair Park by the Boy Scouts of America to celebrate the organization's fortieth anniversary. J. P. Whitaker, the Scout Commissioner of the Kansas City Area Council, came up with the idea. It became so popular, over two hundred were produced and sent to locations throughout thirty-nine of the states. The copper statues stood at the height of eight feet and four inches, weighed 290 pounds, made by the Friedley-Voshardt Company, and carried a price tag of 350 dollars.

Prospero Bernardi Monument

Dallas Fair Park - Prospero Bernardi Monument
Prospero Bernardi Monument
Photo courtesy Clint Skinner, February 2016

Located to the right of the Court of Honor, a granite pedastal with a bust of Prospero Bernardi on top of it pays tribute to a hero of the Texas Revolution. The Italian immigrated to America then sailed to New Orleans, where he joined a group of volunteers headed to Texas. He arrived in 1836 and immediately joined the struggle for independence. He managed to gain lots of prestige, thanks to his bravery and skills at the Battle of San Jacinto. Bernardi remained in the Texas Army until he was injured during a conflict at Galveston the following year. According to the testimony of two soldiers he died in 1838.

The statue commemorating the valiant soldier was given to the Texas Centennial Exposition from the Italian communities living in the state. Sculpted by Pompeo Coppini, the bust was publicly unveiled by Governor Allred on October 12, 1936 in the presence of an Italian diplomat currently serving Benito Mussolini. Commendatore Bartolomeo Migone used the opportunity to thank the governor for honoring the role of Italians played in the history of the Lone Star State.

The Berlin Bear

Dallas Fair Park - Berlin Bear
Berlin Bear
Photo courtesy Clint Skinner, February 2016

Located on the right side of the far reaches of the lawn separating the Hall of State and Tower Building, there is a small, bronze statue of a bear reaching a height of two feet and six inches. Standing on top of a concrete pillar, it was a gift from the citizens of Berlin. The beleaguered city had been split into four zones, one belonging to the Soviet Union and the other three to Britain, France, and America. The triumvirate succeeded in its currency reforms in the region that would soon be called West Germany. When the three nations tried to extend these policies into West Berlin during 1948, the Soviets erected the Berlin Blockade to stop the ability to travel to the allied portion of the city. The citizens were in dire need of food and supplies, forcing the United States and its two companions to conduct airlifts. The Soviet Union did not interfere with these efforts because the government feared such actions would lead to a full-scale war. The operations continued until 1949 when the Soviets decided to end the blockade.

To show their appreciated the appreciation for sending food during that time of need, the citizens of West Berlin gave the 84-pound sculpture to the city of Dallas in 1970. Sculptor Hildebert Kliem, responsible for the restoration of many historical buildings, made the statue. It was formally dedicated during the state fair on what was called German Day in the presence of Horst Grabert, the secretary of federal affairs for Berlin.

*Author's Note: All the pictures that are not mine are either public domain or creative commons. I provided the photographer's name.

October 23, 2016
© Clint Skinner

FAIR PARK - Attractions:

1. Fair Park Station
2. Main Entrance
3. Founders Statue
4. Women's Museum
5. DAR House
6. The Texas Vietnam Veterans Memorial
7. Sydney Smith Memorial Fountain
8. Music Hall
9. Fair Park Esplanade
10. Centennial Building
11. Automobile Building
12. Hall of State
13. Tower Building
14. Big Tex Circle
15. Grand Place
16. Old Mill Inn
17. Magnolia Lounge
18. Hall of Religion
19. African American Museum
20. Leonhardt Lagoon
21. Dallas Museum of Natural History
22. Science Place I
23. Children's Aquarium
24. Fair Park Bandshell
25. Texas Discovery Gardens
26. WRR Headquarters
27. Science Place II
28. The Texas Star
29. Cotton Bowl Stadium
30. The Texas Skyway
31. The Embarcadero
32. The Creative Arts Building
33. Food and Fiber Building
34. Pan American Arena
35. The Woofus
36. The Swine Building
37. Briscoe Carpenter Livestock Center
38. Livestock Pavilion and Arena
39. The Horse Barn
40. Fair Park Coliseum
41. Top of Texas Tower

3.Dallas Morning News Archives
5.Slate, John H. Historic Dallas Parks. Arcadia Publishing, 2010.
8.Winters, Willis Cecil. Fair Park. Arcadia Publishing, 2010.

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