VOLUSIA COUNTY FAIR GROUNDS

Fair Grds Main entr
The above picure from  A Century of West Volusia County, Dreggors & Hess and a few other pictures in the Conrad Museum are all that is known of the original design and construction of an elaborate complex for the Volusia County Fair Association, Inc. by architect Wm. J. Carpenter in 1923.

The caption is enlarged here for  our reader’s convenience:

 The original Volusia County Fair Grounds, located near the railroad tracks west of DeLand, was carved out of a forest in the early 1920s at a cost of nearly $40,000. Designed by William J. Carpenter, a local architect, the elaborate entrance to the fair grounds was built in 1923. The unique structure, displaying stylish Beaux Arts influences, belied the relatively simple vernacular buildings within the fair grounds. Although several of the original buildings in the fair grounds remain standing, the entrance gate deteriorated and was demolished.

The Board of Directors of the Volusia County Fair Association, Inc. planned an impressive facility to be located directly across from the DeLand Junction railroad station on the Atlantiac Coast Line main north-south line so it would be visible to thousands of railroad passengers during the course of a year, and perhaps entice some of them to plan a layover in DeLand on their next journey. The exhibition buildings would necessarily be barn-like structures, but it was felt that they deserved a grand entrance that would attract nationwide attention. (Newcomers will note that the selected site was on West New York Avenue, the opposite side of DeLand from the present Fairgrounds, located on State Highway 44, near I95.)

DeLand architect Wm. J. Carpenter was commissioned to design the facility, probably because he was already well known to Mr. Brown and the other members of the Board through his work for the Volusia County School Board Trustees, as well as the recent design of the Putnam Hotel. There is no record of why the Beaux Arts design was chosen for the Grand Entrance, but the architect rose to the occasion and designed an eye catching edifice.

It is believed that at the dedication ceremony shown above Mr. Carpenter was photographed proudly standing in front of his work, in the company of local officials. He would be the tall person sixth from the right wearing a hat and his trademark brown English worsted wool suit. The lad to his left may be one of his sixteen year old twin sons, Clarence or Richard.

The grounds became the site of many fairs, exhibitions, automobile and horse races, and other community activities in the predominantly rural farming area of Central Florida. During WWII the exhibition buildings were used for the assembly of gliders prior to their being shipped to other locations for use in carrying soldiers and supplies to troops in the field, principally the European theater.

The ornate entrance was demolished long ago, and all that remains on the site are some of the original timber and sheet metal exhibition barns. The property is still in use as the winter quarters of the Clyde Beatty Circus, having been sold to that company in 1947. (Ref. “City of Deland”) An article about the circus in The Beacon, March 4-7, 2004 reported “The circus began wintering in DeLand in 1957…Known as the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus since 1956, the name change came about as the circus spent the off-season in its winter headquarters off Old New York Avenue near the DeLand train station”.

When leaving from the Deland railroad station on his reported trip to the north in 1926 (See Masonic Temple), the architect would have been able to look at his work across the railroad tracks, and be proud of its contribution to his adopted community. But he probably did not realize at the time that he might be viewing it for the last time as a successful architect because of the coming “bust”.

Eighty years later, North-South passengers on the Amtrak train may note the quaintness of the DeLand Station, but there is little to let them know how close they are to this historical site, or the part it has played in the development of this area.

 

Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: