Architecture of the Indiana State Fairgrounds

Tour curated by: Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology

The first Indiana State Fair was held back in 1852 in downtown Indianapolis’ Military Park. It moved to its current fairgrounds site forty years later in 1892. Although it initially began as an attempt to build up agricultural participation and support (and still maintains some of those trappings), the Indiana State Fair has grown to become a larger celebration of the state itself over the years.

This tour specifically highlights the unique architecture of several of the structures out at the fairgrounds. While everyone goes for the animals, food, and rides, you can get an even richer experience if you look closely at the buildings. Discover Indiana invites you to take a journey to the Indiana State Fair to learn the history of the grounds themselves and detailed information about the buildings that house the annual fan-favorite activities!

Please keep in mind that each tour is by no means a comprehensive list of sites in Indiana related to each theme. Please be respectful of private property lines when visiting each of these sites.

Locations for Tour

The colonnade across the front of this house-like building spells out its “official administration” function. The style here is Colonial Revival, an adaptation of 17th and 18th century, eastern U.S. homes. This style was popular for residences in…

Prizes for the best examples of farm or garden produce were a long tradition at the Indiana State Fair when the Fair Board decided to replace the old Agriculture Building with this one. Architects Rubush and Hunter won the contract to design the…

Hook's Drug Stores were Indiana fixtures throughout most of the 20th century. Founder John A. Hook opened his first Indianapolis store in 1900 in a now-demolished building at 1101 S. East Street in what is now the Fountain Square neighborhood.…

The Cattle Barn was designed to harmonize with the Swine Barn, also by the same architects. The corner towers idea was common on other open air pavilions of the time period, and, in fact, is an architectural feature that was used on many earlier (now…

Architect Merritt Harrison considered this building his finest creation. PWA (Public Works Administration) funds made it possible for the Fair Board to build this structure, which was to be a “Livestock Pavilion.” Harrison used tan brick and…

The fairgrounds has several buildings in the modernistic Art Deco style. Art Deco was popular just before and just after WWII--architects were simplifying buildings by “streamlining” their details. Glass block was a new building material and…

Kopf and Deery, architects, seem to have started a long partnership with the Fair Board in 1919 with the design of this building. At the time, many fairgrounds buildings were wooden frame, or at best, brick and wood. Kopf and Deery used steel, brick…

Accompanying their animals to the fair was always a problem for young farmers-to-be. These buildings provided dorms for living on site, school rooms so that young exhibitors would not lose valuable school time, and would have exhibit space for arts…

Prizes were awarded to home handiwork since the first State Fair. The importance of the tradition led to an arts and handicraft pavilion, the forerunner of this building. The tall, classical arches of this building recall the classically styled…

Merrill Jones was the architect of the 1925 portion of the Horse Barn. In 1975, the building was reworked and rechristened as the East Pavilion and, eventually, the Champions Pavilion.

Architects Kopf and Deery used brick exteriors in creating this early Art Deco style building. Notice the abstract tapestry patterning to the brickwork as well as some influence from German modernistic architecture.

The Midway is located where it has always been on the west end of the fairgrounds. Imagine, as you arrived by the Monon Railroad, its lights would have greeted you as soon as you stepped off the train!

The Model Farmhouse was built by the WPA as an example of an ideal modern farmhouse, and it was later used as an officer’s club during WWII. Built out of concrete block, the house includes an attached garage, wiring, plumbing, and other modern…

Kopf and Deery were the architects of this building as well, which is similar to the swine and horse barns. The stucco and half timbering (currently covered by metal panels) gives this pavilion an English Tudor look. The rooster medallions also carry…

This building was originally constructed by the WPA in 1936 as an exhibition hall. From this area behind the Home and Family Arts Building you can see the upper floor living quarters for seasonal fair workers. The adjacent open parking lot used to…

Designed by Burns and Burns, these architects were first known for their traditional designs, but by the ‘50s, they had switched to Modernism. The lower level functioned as storage space, while the upper floors house administrative offices with…

Indiana agriculture was reaching the end of its Golden Age when the Fair Board decided to build a new Hog Palace. This brick, steel, and tile building with concrete floors was extremely grand for its time, and it still serves its purpose well. Notice…

The Fairgrounds have always had a horse track on this site. Sulky racing has long been part of the Fair tradition, going back well into the 19th century. There was enough room on the present site to build a regulation mile long oval track in 1892,…

The State Fair Board has recently restored a number of these wooden buildings. They were all originally built with WPA funds. The WPA was one of several of FDR’s New Deal alphabet soup programs designed to help jobless workers during the Great…

Built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the tunnel provides a way for automobiles to access the infield.