James Edward Flanders
Dallas' First Architect
In 1886, the business leaders of Dallas were united in a desire to create a gigantic state fair in Dallas. In January of that year, they applied for and received a charter from the state to form the Dallas State Fair. However, a conflict soon developed within the group over the site of the fair. Capt. W. H. Gaston, who played a major role in the development and success of the fair during its' formative years, was one of the leaders of a group that championed a location in East Dallas.  This was then a separate community and Gaston had an interest in the area.  C. A. Keating, president of one of the largest farm implement firms in the city, was the leader of the opposing group that objected strongly to the East Dallas location.  Farm machinery was to play a major role in the displays at the planned fair and Keating's group argued that "The ground selected is the worst kind of hog wallow.  That is why the implement and machinery interests refuse almost to a man to show their goods there". The differences proved to be irreconcilable and the Keating faction eventually broke completely from the group and initiated their own plans to hold a fair, which they called the Texas State Fair, on the Cole farm in north Dallas. On April 24th, the original group led by banker J. B. Simpson and working with a budget of $25,000, advertised for 500,000 feet of lumber to be bought within the next five days. The advertisement specified that the lumber should be delivered to several state fair railroad stations and that "First class mill run lumber only will be received. Quote prices on rough and dressed and on green and dry lumber. Terms cash." At the same time, the group advertised for bids from architects, stating that:
"The race track on the Fair Grounds of the Dallas State Fair and Exposition Association is now laid off, and architects who so desire are hereby invited to visit same and make plans and specifications for Judges' Stand, Grand Stand, Machinery Hall, Exposition Hall, Stables and Stock Pens. Information as to boundary lines and position of buildings will be furnished on the grounds by Engineer W. H. Johnson who is in charge.
Sydney Smith, Secretary"

JEF was selected as the architect for the ambitious project. Just six weeks later Flanders had completed the plans and the fair secretary advertised for bids for all buildings plus three additional entrance buildings on Grand Avenue, Pacific Avenue and Exposition Avenue.  The frantic race to complete the buildings and prepare the grounds in time for the October opening of the fair was on. Both fairs opened on schedule with the north Dallas fair opening one day before the Dallas State Fair.  Competition continued even as the fairs got under way.  Both were resounding successes popularly if not financially but the Dallas State Fair prevailed in the minds of the citizenry. The two fairs had been responsible for many improvements to the city itself and had been a bonanza for the merchants, bringing in visitors from throughout the state who patronized hotels, boarding houses, restaurants, saloons and other businesses. 
By the following year the split between the two factions of business leaders had healed and the two fairs united on the East Dallas site with the name of The State Fair of Texas. Several buildings were added to the fairgrounds during the next few years but Flanders had no part in their design as he moved to California in 1887 and did not return for several years. His next contribution came in 1905 when a new Exposition Building was constructed. He also provided designs for additions in 1908 and 1910.
The Exhibition Hall dominated the fair grounds and dominated the literature that promoted the fair. It was an immense structure for the time, occupying a space 200 feet by 300 feet with a clear span of seventy-five feet and a height of seventy-five feet. Four towers soaring to one hundred feet rose at each corner of the building. Flanders recalled in 1925:
Dallas, Texas

"The progress of the work on the structure was watched by most people with a degree of curiosity far more intense than is excited by the loftiest skyscraper in these days when people have no time to wonder. Such an apparition on the bald prairie attracted crowds of the curious from far and near on Sundays."
When he complained to T. J. Marsalis, head of the organization, about some of the sub-standard work going into the building, Marsalis asked "if with such work, the building would stand for two years" because "that is as long as we shall need it." While most of the work on the buildings proceeded according to schedule, in August, construction of the Machinery Hall had still not started and in fact no contract for its' construction had been let.  On September 1st, less than two months from the scheduled opening of the fair, the ad below appeared at the top of page one of The Dallas News:
Bids will be received for building
the Machinery Hall 75x300 feet, of the
Plans and specifications can be seen
at the office of J. E. Flanders, Architect.
Bids to close Sept. 1 at 3 PM.
The ad and its' timing are further indicators of the pace of the preparations for the fair.  Note that the ad states that the bids were to close at 3:00 PM on the same day that the ad ran.  The committee completed the building in time and the Dallas State Fair opened as scheduled on October 26th.  It was a resounding success!
Dallas, Texas

In 1902 the Exposition Building, built of wood fifteen years earlier and intended to be used for only a few years, burned. It happened at a time when officials of the fair were burdened with financial problems and a decision to replace the building was postponed for several years. For the next few years, exhibits normally located in the building were scattered throughout the grounds in any available space. The decision to rebuild came in 1905 and Flanders designed a grand new Exposition Hall to replace his original building. Fair officials, exhibitors, and patrons alike welcomed the new building after three years of inadequate display facilities.
The Exhibition Building was the first of several buildings within the grounds designed by JEF in the Spanish Romanesque Style. A 3500 seat auditorium occupied the space behind the nearest portal while the remaining two-thirds of the building was used for exhibits. The building was constructed of cement stones and it was adorned with festive terra cotta embellishments as well as a collection of plaster statues acquired from the St. Louis worlds fair.
The Texas Centennial of 1936 coincided with the economic recovery from the great depression. The WPA was still responsible for many public construction projects and a remodeling of the buildings of the Texas State Fair to celebrate the centennial was one of those projects. Hundreds of workers were enlisted to execute the plans of Dallas architect George Dahl, constructing new buildings and adding new facades in the Art Deco style to existing buildings. 
Flanders' Exhibition Building was one of those that was enlarged and modernized. The front of the building was extended to twice its' original length and art deco sculptures were added to the portals and walls. The Texas State Fair grounds are one of the largest extant collections of Art Deco Style buildings. This is the primary impetus behind the attention given them by the Historic American Buildings Survey who measured and drew the building in 1986. Sponsored by the City of Dallas Park Board, Friends of Fair Park, and State Fair of Texas, Inc, the park itself received a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Tucked away behind one of these 1936 facades is one of the very few surviving Flanders' buildings in the city of Dallas.
Dallas, Texas
In 1906, the fair board hired Dallas native George Kessler of St. Louis to design a master plan for the development of the fair grounds. One of his first recommendations was to build an Administration Building near the main entrance. In 1908, the committee retained JEF for this design that was to include a new pedestrian and vehicle entrance.  The structure completed the same year was in the Spanish Romanesque style. The vehicle entrance was flanked by two free-standing towers that are the only known examples of monolithic architecture by Flanders.  JEF used a romanticized rendering of this design on the envelopes of his business stationery, with the gates surrounded by trees and shrubs rather than buildings and pavement
Dallas, Texas

Constructed in 1910 on the northeast corner of the fairgrounds, the Coliseum was Flanders' last building for the Texas State Fair. In addition to its' primary use for horse shows and other similar events, the building was also planned to function as an auditorium and opera house. JEF again used the Spanish Romanesque style as he had done on his earlier twentieth century buildings for the Texas State Fair Association. The 8,000 seat building measured 156 ft x 256 ft and cost $180,000 to construct. Upon its' completion, the auditorium was removed from the Exhibition Hall opening space there for additional exhibits.  The coliseum became the center of performance activities at the fair and it opened with vaudeville acts in 1910. Woodrow Wilson addressed the citizens of Dallas there in 1911 and an exhibition boxing match featuring the world heavyweight champion Jess Willard was held there in 1916.
The building served as an auditorium until 1925 when Lang & Witchell built their extant Spanish Colonial Revival building on the northwest corner of the fairgrounds This building is known as the State Fair Music Hall. In 1936, JEF's coliseum was included in the Art Deco style remodeling for the Texas Centennial.  In recent years, the interior has been remodeled, including the construction of additional levels of floor space as well as office and storage space. The building has been used for maintenance and utilitarian functions. Like the Exhibition Building, the Coliseum is in the National Historic Landmark District declared in 1986. The Historic American Building Survey included both buildings in a 1988 project. In 1989, the National Park Service conducted another study of the Coliseum and the historical architects inspecting the building, James Woodward and James Garrison, were impressed with its' "well conceived engineering". The location in Fair Park and the 1936 Art Deco exterior are responsible for the recent attention given to the building and the purpose of the latest study was to provide recommendations for priorities in restoring the structure.

The State Fair Administration Office and pedestrian entrance are in the center of this photo flanked by (half of) the vehicle gate on the right and the 1908 Coliseum on the left showing the west entry that opened to the street outside of the fairgrounds.  Stonework on the monolithic vehicle gate and fence was done by Southern Architectural Cement Stone Co. of Dallas.

From the Collection of the Texas/Dallas History Archives, Dallas Public Library
Illustration to come

This drawing gives the scope of the project undertaken by Flanders in designing the buildings for the 1886 Fair.  The building in the lower center is the entrance gate.  Above and to the left of that is the Exposition Building.  To the right of that, along the racetrack, is the Machinery Hall and Compound, followed by the Stock Pens and, finally, the Grand Stand and Judges Stand.

From the Collection of the Texas/Dallas History Archives, Dallas Public Library

This photograph shows the same buildings from another perspective - left to right The Judges Stand, The Grand Stand, Stock Pens, Machinery Hall and Compound and, on the far right, the Exposition Building.

From the Collection of the Texas/Dallas History Archives, Dallas Public Library

This postcard photograph shows more of the detail of the building and, according to family tradition, several members of the Flanders family.

This drawing by the Historical American Buildings Survey shows JEF's original Exhibition Building in the three darker areas at the top of the drawing and how they fit into the 1936 Art Deco additions to the building.

Drawing courtesy of HABS/HAER Div., Nat'l. Park Service
The building has been remodeled and has opened as The Women's Museum: An Institute for the Future. The goal of the new design is to   "transform a place that once separated commerce and culture – traditional male and female realms – into one that bears witness to women’s efforts to cross the divide and pursue the challenges of a wide-open future".  More information on this building.
AN INTERIOR VIEW OF THE COLISEUM during a well attended stage production.
From the Dallas Historical Society Archives
This building is pictured in the book Greater Dallas - Illustrated which offers accounts of Dallas companies and the services they offer.  This photograph appears in an ad for the Heber & Brentano Co. which identifies the building as being on the State Fair Grounds.  This company supplied the "beams and structural work" for the building.  There is nothing but the location and similarity of the style to JEF's Exposition Building to suggest that this might be a Flanders work - but the style is almost identical and the building barely visible on the right appears to be the Exposition Building.  If so, this would place the Agriculture & Manufacture Building on the east side of  the Exposition Building.  Perhaps future research will provide more information on it.   
THE TEXAS STATE FAIR, 1908 or 1909. With the exception of the domed building visible behind the 1908 Administration Building in the center of the picture, all of the structures were designed by Flanders. His Coliseum was built in 1910 on the right side of the Administration Building.
From the Collection of the Texas/Dallas History Archives, Dallas Public Library
From the Dallas Historical Society Archives
Postcard Illustration