Lagoon walking tour

The Lagoon leads to Fair Park's greenest spots

One of the enduring legacies of the Texas Centennial Exposition was Dallas's first permanent cultural district. 


The cultural district was a collection of museums and performance venues loosely organized around a naturalistic water feature named The Lagoon.



Bracketed numbers correspond to locations marked on this downloadable map.

[22] Old Mill Inn, 1936
The Old Mill Inn was one of the few Texas Centennial Exposition buildings not to incorporate Art Deco styling in its design. Clad in fieldstone and incorporating heavy-timber construction, this was the exhibit building for the flour milling industry. It now serves Fair Park as a restaurant.

[31] Magnolia Lounge, 1936 and
[10] (Former) Hall of Religion, 1936
This little-known project by New York architect William Lescaze introduced European Modernism to Texas in 1936. The design of this hospitality lounge for the Magnolia Petroleum Company included elements commonly found in Art Deco architecture. However, the building's overall image was radically different from that of any other structure at the Texas Centennial Exposition.

The overall effect was avant-garde and exhilarating. The lounge now serves as the offices for the Friends of Fair Park and also contains the Margo Jones Theater. Site of Theatre '47, the first professional, regional theater company in the United States, the small performing space pays tribute to the visionary founder of America's regional theater movement. Immediately adjacent to the Magnolia Lounge is the former Hall of Religion, future home to Texas! Music Center

[1] African American Museum, 1993
The current museum building occupies virtually the same site as the Texas Centennial Exposition's Hall of Negro Life.

[36] The Leonhardt Lagoon, 1936
South of the Midway, George Dahl arranged Dallas's future cultural institutions informally around a tranquil lagoon. This offered Texas Centennial exposition visitors peaceful respite and a romantic, naturalistic counterpoint to the intense activity of the exposition. A major earth sculpture became part of the Leonhardt Lagoon in 1986.

[7] and [6] Museum of Nature and Science, 1936
The westernmost building of the museum [6] was once the Museum of Natural History and was design for the Texas Centennial Exposition as a monolithic, rectangular box with little architectural detail. The entrance features three vertical window bays with decorative aluminum mullions. Flanking it are paired pilasters with shell-motif capitals. The rest of the building is conservatively clad in limestone. In 1988, workers excavated the northeast corner of the building, creating a delightful series of curvilinear, landscaped terraces. 

Originally the Museum of Fine Arts and, then, The Science Place [7], the easternmost building of the museum – a spartan building, clad in creamy Texas limestone and shellstone – was the centerpiece of the picturesque Lagoon area. Architects located it on axis with the plaza and entry to Fair Park Stadium (now the Cotton Bowl) on the opposite shore. In 1996, the musem's TI Founders IMAX® Theater addition gave the building a new, monumental entry that is shifted from the original, Texas Centennial Exposition axis. 

[23] Fair Park Band Shell, 1936
The concentric plaster arches of the Band Shell comprise an essentially Art Deco composition. You can see elements of the Streamline Moderne style, meanwhile, in the reinforced concrete backstage building. Lighting pylons surround the gently sloping, 5,000-seat amphitheater.

[9] Texas Discovery Gardens, 1936
This was the original Horticulture Building for the Texas Centennial Exposition. It has since been altered by exterior renovations and additions, including the minimalist glass Blachly Conservatory. In the gardens behind the main structure, you'll see a model home that the Portland Cement Company originally built for the exposition.

[2] The Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park, 1936 and
[2a] Education Annex
The aquarium represents a highly complex building type still in its infancy in the 1930s. Many of the building technological advances, including the use of natural light over the exhibit tanks, are not apparent on the building's exterior. That exterior consists of the traditional, raised entrance pavilion and loggia with flanking wings. This entrance is interesting for its display of elements from both the Streamline Moderne and Zigzag Moderne movements. The expanses of blank wall successfully include a series of alternating brick planes and recessed sculptural panels by artist Allie Tennant that impart a lively rhythm to the façade. Adjacent to the building is the aquarium's Education Annex. This served as the Christian Science Monitor Pavilion during the Texas Centennial Exposition. 

[25] Cotton Bowl, 1930
The original Fair Park Stadium was literally a concrete bowl. It was partially below-grade, giving it a distinctly different presence in the middle of Fair Park than it possesses today. With a seating capacity of 46,200, it was the largest stadium in the South. The capacity expanded with the addition of upper decks in 1948 and 1949 to accommodate enthusiastic crowds generated by Doak Walker, the legendary running back at Southern Methodist University. In 1994, the Cotton Bowl again expanded to host World Cup soccer; a 2008 expansion brought capacity to more than 90,000.

[26] The Music Hall at Fair Park, 1925
Built in the Spanish colonial revival style, the Music Hall was the General Motors Building during the Centennial Exposition. It underwent extensive remodeling in 1972.

Lagoon walking tour