Fairground Neighborhood Overview
Information concerning the neighborhood history, characteristics, institutions and organizations, planning and development.
The Fairgrounds neighborhood’s boundaries are defined as Grand Avenue on the East, Emily on the North, Warne on the West, and Fairgrounds Park on the South.
A large majority of the existing neighborhood was previously the old Grand Prairie Commonfield, being composed of a series of narrow eastwest strips laid out by the French for agricultural purposes. The remainder of the land consisted of several former land grants designated as surveys. In the early 1850s, the larger surveys were subdivided into smaller tracts. Sections nearest to Fairgrounds Park were developed first in the late 1860s. The area to the west was developed in the 1880s and continued through the turn of the century. The area to the south of O’Fallon Park was developed after 1900, and included the existing neighborhoods O’Fallon Park, Plymouth Park and Wanstrath Place.
The Fairgrounds neighborhood received its name as a result of the many fairs that were held at present-day Fairgrounds Park. Of particular importance was the creation of the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association in 1855, which held its first fairs at a site of 50 acres at the northwest corner of Grand and Natural Bridge Plank Road. The fairgrounds were closed during the Civil War, as it was converted into barracks, but reopened again in 1866. Throughout the latter portion of the century, the grounds were expanded and more elaborate buildings were constructed. These included a new ampitheater, Art Gallery, Natural History museum, and the Zoological Gardens. A large Mechanical Hall was opened in 1876. In 1883, the Jockey Club was organized, where emphasis was placed upon horse racing. It was at this time that the Fairgrounds began to lose popularity. The opening of the Exposition Building downtown further decreased attendance. The last Fair was held in 1902. The City eventually bought the grounds for $700,000 for use as a park, which was dedicated in 1909.