1879 State Fair: Browns Park Front Gate

Bill Campfield, manager of the Iowa State Fair’s Ralph H. Deets Historical Museum, shared this graphic of the fair’s ornate entrance: “Main entrance to the 1879 State Fair Grounds. Substantially built of brick and stone, thirty feet high and eighty four feet in length.”

An Aug. 11, 1999 Des Moines Register article about the fair’s history explains how the success of the Brown’s Park location attributed to its move to the new site on the east side of Des Moines. “Holding the State Fair in Des Moines proved to be a money-maker, allowing officials to pay off the fair’s debts and creating a large surplus the first year of the move. The site was temporary. The vision for the fair became much broader than its west side location allowed. After six years, the efforts of fair supporters paid off when the Legislature appropriated $50,000 to purchase larger grounds. The approval came with the condition that Des Moines raises an equal amount for improvements to the new site.” The Register article also outlines how homes in this area came to be developed: “Brown’s Park, later known as Elmwood Park, became a family spot for summer picnics and winter ice-skating. At the turn of the century, the lake was drained. The land was subdivided and developed as an outlying residential district.” An Aug. 17, 1965, Des Moines Tribune article stated that the “last relic of Brown’s Park State Fair was a frame building, once a horse barn, which was razed in 1953 to make way for Pigott, Inc., building at 3815 Ingersoll avenue.”

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