Iowa State Fair Buildings History
When the fair moved to its current location 1886, there was a desire to make it seem more permanent. Exposition Hall was one of the first and largest of the new wood-frame buildings to be erected on the fairgrounds.
[Thomas Leslie, Architect and Historian] There was a desire to make it seem permanent and to give it a sense of kind of civic-ness, if you like, that if it was going to be in Iowa's biggest city, it ought to also be a kind of urban event or a civic event. So, the first permanent structures were some of the largest. The Exposition Hall would have been the largest structure most Iowans would ever see. It was larger than any barn in the state and it would have been the largest structure just about in Des Moines. Again, all out of timber, though, all carpentry, because that was the labor available and that was the material that was available at the time. The Exposition Hall was modeled maybe subconsciously, but certainly modeled after the Crystal Palace, the 1851 London Building that was sort of the grandfather of the world expositions.