Andy Zimmerman

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Andy Zimmerman - The Oregon State Fair is celebrating its 150th...
The Oregon State Fair is celebrating its 150th edition in Salem this year. One building has been part of the festivities for more than 90 fairs. “ The long-span wooden truss s tructure is considered a well- p reserved example of arena a rchitecture and the rare use of s olid timber framing,” according to a 2001state fair press release describing the Horse Stadium. Built by inmate labor, the Horse Stadium opened unfinished for the 1919 fair. The 80,000 square-foot building cost $135,000, with $20,000 appropriated by the state Legislature a nd the rest coming from fair e arnings and donations from m embers of the fair board. It s eats 2,500. “The big livestock coliseum will be the finest and most modernly equipped structure of its kind in the west, and with the exception of half of the seating capacity, it will be complete when the fair opens,” said A.H. Lea, secretary of the fair, in the Aug. 26, 1919, edition of the Oregon Statesman. The Oregon Statesman said “several thousand spectators” attended the first show at the Horse Stadium on Sept. 23, 1919. “No honors awarded at the state fair have been more coveted by the contestants than those given in the first horse show last night, the first event of the kind to be held in the new stadium,” the Oregon Statesman reported. T here was a tribute to Gov. James Withycombe during the opening ceremonies of the Horse Stadium. Withycombe, w ho died in office on March 3, 1 919, was instrumental in the s tate’s growing agricultural industry. “He aided in the development of farm work along scientific lines. He assisted in bring- i ng Oregon livestock up to the p remier place that it holds to- d ay, and in almost every line of agriculture endeavor, the effect of his labors has been felt,” Gov. Ben Olcott said during o pening ceremonies. W ithycombe also was p raised for his efforts leading Oregon during World War I, and a ll veterans in uniform got in f ree during the 1919 fair’s o pening day. “ A grand finale with an artillery drill brought the program to an intense climax, many of the nervous members o f the audience being rather s tartled upon the salvo of three g uns.” the Oregon Statesman reported. T he first day ended with the p laying of the Star Spangled B anner. D uring that first fair, the building hosted a horse show on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. During t he afternoons of the fair, band c oncerts and other entertain- m ent was held inside the building. It also held stock judging a nd parades of prize-winning s tock. T he Capital Journal report- e d outside of the main ring was “space for an immense number of automobile exhibits, all of which has been taken by Salem a nd Portland dealers.” Autom obile accessories and an e xhibit by Standard Oil also were at the Horse Stadium. T he building quickly became interwoven with the fabric of the fairgrounds, hosting the state fair rodeo until its demise as well as equine events throughout the years. T he stadium was renovated in t he mid-1980s, getting a new r oof, electrical system and i nterior paint job. However, like all buildings on the state fairgrounds at the end of the 20th century, the Horse Stadium suffered from problems caused by deferred maintenance. The mortar that held together the bricks of the stadium could be pulled out by a knife. In 1999, an inspection showed there was a risk of falling bricks, so walkways on the west side of the stadium were closed off. Entryways were covered to keep visitors safe, the Statesman Journal reported. Horse stalls on the east side of the building were closed because of structural issues. Unlike the Floral Building and Grandstand, the building’s problems didn’t lead to demoli- t ion. The Horse Stadium was structurally reinforced with new interior bracing and support columns, and the protect- e d entryways and fencing w ere removed. The horse s talls also were removed from the east side of the building. The repairs ensured the oldest building on the fairgrounds will continue to be a p art of the annual event for g enerations to come. Andy Zimmerman is a former Statesman Journal copy editor w ho writes a column about local history twice per month. You can contact him with comments or s uggestions for future stories at Horse Stadium closing in on first century STATESMAN JOURNAL FILE The Horse Stadium is seen in 1999 before repairs have been made. Fair patrons had to enter through covered walkways. By Andy Zimmerman Special to the Statesman Journal STATESMAN JOURNAL FILE The Horse Stadium was constructed in 1919 and is the oldest building on the state fairgrounds. ONLINE Go to TimeCapsule to find previous s tories and photos published in the Capital Journal and Oregon Statesman. LOST SALEM Do you know of an iconic Salem e vent, location or business that has been lost to history and should be remembered? Send suggestions to

Clipped from
  1. Statesman Journal,
  2. 23 Aug 2015, Sun,
  3. Main Edition,
  4. Page E2

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  • Andy Zimmerman

    Ferg89 – 01 Feb 2017

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