Beginning as early as 1853, North Carolinians from all over the state flock to Raleigh for the annual State Fair. What began as strictly an agricultural exposition has evolved to include an explosion of games, rides, crafts, food, and fun as well.
The original fairgrounds stood on the east side of downtown, and were known as “Morus Multicaulis Field” due to the abundance of mulberry trees. During the Civil War, the grounds were used as a military training camp and as a confederate hospital. In 1865, during the Union troop occupation of Raleigh, the grounds served as Union barracks. Throughout this time the Fair was obviously on hiatus, but started back up in 1869, and moved to the west side of town in 1873 to an area called “Cook’s Hill”. After a few difficult years, and a few years off, the fair settled in its current day location in 1928.
One of the most notable aspects of the current day fairgrounds is the striking modern architecture of the J.S. Dorton Arena. Matthew Nowicki, the architect of Dorton Arena, died in a plane crash two years before the structure opened in 1952. It was originally called “State Fair Arena” but was renamed in honor of J.S. Dorton, a former State Fair manager. Its unique parabolic structure makes it one of North Carolina’s most recognizable buildings.
This year, the fair kicks off on October 15, and runs through the 25th. Learn more about this year’s fair, “A Whole Lotta Happy” here.
Images courtesy of the Raleigh City Museum