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Arts & Entertainment

Fair Park’s Hall of State Suffered Millions in Damage After the Storm

Officials estimated $3 million in damages to the rooms that contain some of the Dallas Historical Society's archives.
By |
Josh Blaylock

Fair Park’s historic Hall of State suffered about $3 million worth of damages after a pipe burst, flooding prominent rooms that contained historical archives dating back to the early 1900s. The Hall of State is among three Fair Park buildings that we know suffered damage in last week’s storms, which include the Tower Building and the Cotton Bowl. (The Tower Building is where vaccine recipients are observed 15 minutes after receiving their doses, but Rocky Vaz, the city’s director of the Office of Emergency Management, said the damage didn’t affect those efforts this week.)

Julian Bowman, a spokesman for Fair Park’s management company Spectra, declined to discuss the extent of damage elsewhere among the 277-acre grounds. He said the company is waiting to complete a “parkwide” assessment that will identify any other problems after last week’s storm. Spectra will determine the source of damage in affected buildings, fix it, then establish longer-term solutions for severe weather conditions in the future. The Dallas Historical Society estimates about 10 percent of its collection was damaged.

The Dallas Morning News reported that the Cotton Bowl sustained $2 million worth of water damage, but Bowman would only say that Spectra hopes to complete its estimate by early next week. The State Fair Classic between Grambling State and Prairie View was scheduled for this week, but has been postponed until March 13 and moved from the Cotton Bowl to AT&T Stadium.

The damage to the Hall of State was particularly painful. Fair Park’s most visible landmark, which is home to the Dallas Historical Society, had just completed a $14.4 million renovation last month. Now, the same company responsible for the renovations, Phoenix 1, will get back to work.

Karl Chiao, the executive director of the Dallas Historical Society, says most of the cost will be for building restorations. He believes only 10 percent of its archives—which include documents, photographs, maps, and other paper artifacts—suffered any sort of damage. Nine orotone prints produced in the 1930s by photographer Polly Smith had to be restored. The city of Dallas dispatched a conservator to help work on them; they were removed from the East Texas room.

Meanwhile, a collection of books and maps from the society’s archival collection were transferred to Fort Worth by Belfor, a national property restoration company. There, the collection will be frozen and freeze-dried over 10 days to remove any remaining moisture.

Other items like books were kept safe in a shelving system, while maps were protected by archival file cabinets. The nonprofit says water damage was minimized because of the quick response from The Texas Collections Emergency Resource Alliance (TX-CERA), a disaster response agency of art conservators and preservation specialists who provide aid to cultural institutions.

Veletta Forsythe Lill, the board chair of the Dallas Historical Society, described the efforts as “Herculean.” Conservators brought humidifiers on Wednesday and Thursday to reduce any remaining humidity in the facility. At the moment, DHS is monitoring archives through Boxcar, a multi-sensory program that monitors humidity in the archives on an hourly basis for collections staff to read. Lill characterized the current state of humidity, which is now under 30 percent, as very good. The News said humidity had risen to 70 percent, a dangerous amount for such delicate archives.

Phoenix 1, the hired contractor for this year’s renovation, is working with the city’s Parks and Recreation department and the Office of Arts and Culture to restore the building. Chiao said the recent restoration gave DHS a “better understanding of the restoration process to the Interior.” Now, the Hall of State has operational water and electricity. It’s not clear how long the restoration process will take to complete.

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