north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     The State Fair’s present location in west Raleigh is its third. Although the fair has always been held in the capital city, it has not always been operated by the state. The original sponsor was the North Carolina Agricultural Society, an organization dedicated to promoting agriculture and led by such prominent men as plantation owner Paul Cameron and former Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin. The first fair was held October 18-21, 1853, on a sixteen-acre tract about ten blocks east of the Capitol. The Civil War and its aftermath led to cancellation of the fair but it resumed in 1869 and was held on the original site for four more years.

     In 1872, recognizing the need for more room and new facilities, the Society moved to a fifty-five acre tract near the present site of North Carolina State University. During the Spanish-American War, the fairgrounds were the site of the state’s only U.S. Army encampment, Camp Bryan Grimes.

     By the mid-1920s the fair had grown so large as to be beyond the control of the Agricultural Society. Following negotiations between that group, the city of Raleigh, and the state government, it was decided to abandon the old site, build new fairgrounds, and turn operation over to the state. For the first time the fair would be a State Fair in fact as well as in name. No fair was held in 1926 or 1927 due to the construction of new facilities. Large, new exhibition buildings were the central feature on the 200-acre space.

     Located in its third and present home, the State Fair began to take on its present dimensions. For several years in the 1930s, the state leased operation to George Hamid, a private businessman. In 1937 newly elected Commissioner of Agriculture W. Kerr Scott fulfilled a campaign promise and returned operation to the Department of Agriculture. In that year he appointed Joseph Sibley Dorton manager of the fair. Dorton held the position for twenty-four years, during which time the event expanded greatly in size and scope.


References:
Melton A. McLaurin, The North Carolina State Fair: The First 150 Years (2003)
Jim Sumner, National Register of Historic Places nomination prepared for the 1928 Commercial and Educational Buildings, files of State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh
Donald B. Marti, Historical Directory of American Agricultural Fairs (1986)



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north carolina highway historical marker program


North Carolina State Fair, 1969

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources