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Fort Worth Flashback: Spring Palace showcased Texas wares, ended tragically

Posted April 26, 2013

130429_TexasSpringPalace.jpg

The Texas Spring Palace, a regional agricultural fair in Fort Worth, opened May 29, 1889. The fair was inspired by Robert A. Cameron, immigration agent for the Fort Worth and Denver Railway, and designed to attract settlers and investors to Texas.

Cameron devised a plan to advertise Texas by displaying all the natural products of the state under one roof in a building intended to rival the Sioux City Corn Palace and Toronto Ice Palace in novelty and style.

With its exterior walls painted a dark bronze green, its roof sporting both turnip-shaped cupolas and a massive center dome surpassed in size only by that of the national Capitol in Washington, D.C., and wheat, cotton and other products of Texas covering the entire structure, the Spring Palace building looked like something out of a fantasy world.

Inside the exhibit hall, settlers and investors could find neatly classified samples of most grains, grasses, fruits, vegetables and minerals produced in the state.

A second season, 1890, proved especially popular but ended in catastrophe. In spite of efforts to make the palace fireproof, a flash fire swept through the building on the night of May 30, leveling the structure in minutes. Although several thousand people were attending a dance in the palace that night, only Englishman Al Hayne died.

Hayne died as a result of his efforts to save women and children who had not yet escaped from the burning building. A 15-year-old girl named Ada Large also heroically aided those trapped by the flames and was later given a medal by the city.

This photo of Texas Spring Palace is among the items in an upcoming exhibit, “The Swartz Brothers: Fort Worth’s First Family of Photographers,” that will be displayed in the West Wing of the Central Library, May 1-31.

The Fort Worth Library has approximately 10,000 items pertaining to the history of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. These items include city and county government documents, newspapers, directories, cemetery association records, maps as well as popular and scholarly books written by local authors or about local subjects. To learn more, call 817-392-7740 or email the Genealogy, History and Archives Section.

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