A museum’s worst nightmare: Dallas to restore Hall of State at Fair Park after pipes burst in historic winter storm

Built in 1936 for the Texas Centennial Exposition, the Hall of State displays some of the most recognizable works of art and artifacts from Texas history.

DALLAS, Texas – Fair Park’s Hall of State is closed for damage sustained during the historic Texas winter storm in February. But on Wednesday the members of the Dallas City Council took the first step to reopen the symbolic museum.

On February 17, when the storm struck much of Texas, the Hall of State lost power. Since the pipes inside could not be heated, the administrators were called early in the morning about the bursting of the sprinkler system pipes.

Documentary filmmaker Mark Birnbaum has compiled several videos of the pipes that gush water into the East Texas Room.

The Hall of State houses and features several collections of recognizable Texan art and artifacts. It also honors some of the state’s heroes like Sam Houston and Davy Crockett.

In one area of ​​the museum you can find Tom Landry’s Super Bowl rings that he won with the Dallas Cowboys. Another? Davy Crockett’s pistol and Santa Anna’s spurs.

In the East Texas Room, water damaged rubber-paneled walls, orotone photos of Polly Smith showing scenes across Texas in the early 1920s and 1930s, and murals showing the area before and after the discovery of oil.

Dallas City Council members passed a resolution on Wednesday allocating $ 376,092 for the restoration and renovation of damaged parts.

However, around $ 3 million will still be needed to repair the building’s infrastructure.

Karl Chiao, the executive director of the Dallas Historical Society, said the whole ordeal was a nightmare. The two things a museum tries the most to avoid are fire and water damage.

The Dallas Historical Society has administered the building since 1938.

“You know, it happened around 4am and by 10am we had 25 to 30 people here helping,” Chiao said. “We have over three million items in our collection, and this is one of the three most historic buildings in Texas after the Alamo and the State Capitol.”

About 1 to 4 inches of water had to be swept from the building, which was constructed for the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936. The fans are still drying it to this day.

Birnbaum captured volunteers in February and brought artifacts to the Great Hall, some of which need drying.

One of the soaked items was Quanah Parker’s Dokin pipe bag. Parker was a war leader of the Kwahadi Band of the Comanche Nation.

Internal damage was also caused to the ceiling of the East Texas Room and other ceiling areas around the museum. The walls in the East Texas Room will likely need mending, and the sprinkler system needs mending as well.

That’s where the $ 3 million come from.

Councilors are likely to approve the money needed as the city has already spent $ 14.4 million on the restoration of the building, which was completed in December.

Funds were secured by voters in 2017 when a majority approved a bond sale to fund the renovation.

Chiao looks forward to when the repairs actually begin. He hopes the building can reopen in the coming months.

“It feels a bit like Groundhog Day,” said Chiao. “We just did this renovation and now we’re back. It’s a little frustrating, but the good thing is we’ve done it before.”

Below you can see Birnbaum’s documentary about how the State Hall was finally restored last year.

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