G.G. George’s New Book: The Arizona State Fair

Published on 09/29/2017 • Posted in

The Arizona State Fair, the latest book by Phoenix author and historic preservation activist, G.G. George, chronicles the history of Arizona’s State Fair from its origins as a territorial fair in 1884, through the early days of Arizona’s statehood, up to the present day. The book is filled with 210 historic photographs that vividly illustrate the history of the fair and surrounding areas, as well as the cast of historical figures who were instrumental in establishing the fair. In addition to performing an exhaustive search of state and local historical archives, Ms. George collected cherished photographs and stories from local residents, which are incorporated throughout the book.

The book details the history of the area known as Six Points, at the intersection of Grand Ave., 19th Ave. and McDowell Rd. Early area developers, including F.Q. Story (founder of the historic district which bears his name), General M. H. Sherman; and politicians, including Phoenix Mayor John C. Adams (owner of the Hotel Adams) were instrumental in developing the area around Grand Avenue and orchestrating the purchase of 80 acres in the Six Points area in 1905. The location became the site of the Arizona Territorial Fair, which transitioned to the Arizona State Fair after Arizona achieved statehood in 1912.

In addition to providing a history of the Arizona State Fair and its evolution from a showcase of Arizona’s agricultural roots, when horse races and rodeo events were popular attractions, to its modern incarnation as an exposition and entertainment showcase; the book details many other interesting events in the fairgrounds’ history. Some of the fair’s fluctuations in fortune include the cancellation of the fair in 1918 due to the flu pandemic, and a hiatus in the 1930’s due to lack of financial resources during the Great Depression. During that time period, a federal camp for men and boys was opened at the fairgrounds. The New Deal era brought money that resulted in construction of many of the historic buildings that exist at the fairgrounds today, including the WPA Building and the cattle barns.

Challenges facing the Arizona State Fair today include finding ways to maintain its economic viability, and obtaining the funding necessary to preserve and restore its historic buildings. As a vocal and effective historic preservation advocate, Ms. George has been instrumental in these efforts, but acknowledges there is much work still to be done. It is her hope that her book, The Arizona State Fair, will serve, not only as an engaging historic record, but also as a call to action to preserve and restore the Arizona State Fairgrounds – a site that has been an important part of our history since Arizona’s earliest days.

The Arizona State Fair is available from author G. G. George, gggfabgal@msn.com (Arcadia Publishing, 2017. 128 pages). Ms. George will participate in a book signing on Saturday, October 14, 2017 at Antiques on Central, 730 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

About the author, G.G. George:

Phoenix author G.G. George currently serves as President of the Encanto Citizens Association, President of the Phoenix Historic Neighborhoods Coalition, and as a member of the Arizona State Fair Stakeholders Group. A long-time historic preservation activist, Ms. George became involved in historic preservation advocacy and activism in Phoenix when she paid a visit to the Moreland Corridor in 1970 with a donation for a back-to-school clothing drive and saw the patchwork of missing houses that had been torn down in advance of the I-10 freeway project. The devastation facing those residents spurred her to learn more and become involved. She said skepticism that Phoenix had anything historic worth preserving was the greatest obstacle to be overcome in the early days of the historic preservation movement in Phoenix. When asked to name her proudest achievement as a community leader in historic preservation, she cited being a founder of the Encanto Citizens Association and succeeding in getting Encanto-Palmcroft and Encanto Park listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This achievement provided the impetus for surrounding neighborhoods to seek historic designation also. Ms. George helped found the Encanto Citizens Association in 1969 when she found the alleys too dark in the evening and organized neighbors to light up the night to improve security and safety. The group’s achievements include helping to win the freeway fight to eliminate the planned 10-story high freeway through the heart of Phoenix and having it instead moved underground between 7th Street and 7th Avenue, saving Encanto-Palmcroft’s historic streetlights from being replaced with modern ones by APS, instituting the first Encanto-Palmcroft Home Tour in 1981, and the 2017 installation and dedication of the William G. Hartranft Entry Garden at Encanto Park honoring Mr. Hartranft, the founder of the Phoenix Parks System. The group’s continuing goals include education, preservation and planning for the future. Ms. George related that some of the challenges facing historic Phoenix today include maintaining the integrity of the historic districts and other structures in the face of current development and increases in density around Phoenix’s historic core. This poses new challenges and opportunities to increase awareness and educate the public about the benefits of historic preservation, including the value, tradition and charm of our historic neighborhoods and buildings. Ms. George’s current projects include preservation of the historic buildings at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, and her book, The Arizona State Fair, serves to educate others as to the background and importance of these structures, as well as the important role of the fairgrounds in Arizona history.