Fairgrounds Arena, Dedicated in 1961, Shaped Like a Pringles Chip
On October 16, 1961, the Livestock Judging Pavilion at the North Carolina State Fair was dedicated and renamed the J. S. Dorton Arena, honoring the memory of “Doc” Dorton, a longtime fairgrounds manager who had died earlier that year.
Internationally recognized for its revolutionary architectural design, the arena opened in 1952. Its soaring, criss-crossed parabolic arched roof amazed fairgoers right from the start. The innovative creation was the work of Matthew Nowicki, a Polish architect who was then head of of the architecture department at what is now N.C. State’s School of Design.
Nowicki had sketched the building’s preliminary drawings in 1950, prior to his departure for India where he was engaged in planning the new Punjab capital city of Chandigarh. Returning to the United States, he was killed in a plane crash in Egypt, and Raleigh architect William Dietrick carried out the construction of Nowicki’s visionary work. Recipient of the first American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 1953, and recognized as a National Civil Engineering Landmark, the arena was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 for its exceptional national significance only 21 years after its construction.
Other related resources:
- Blue Ribbon Memories, a project of the State Library that celebrates the Fair’s past and invites visitors to contribute to its historical record
- The North Carolina State Fair: The First 150 Years from N.C. Historical Publications
- The State Fair in the North Carolina Digital Collections
- The State Fair on NCpedia. This small collection includes articles on the Fair’s history, technology at the Fair and the African-American fair.
- Photos from the State Fair on the State Archives of North Carolina Flickr page
- The National Register Nomination Form for the arena and the State Historic Preservation Office
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