Cotton Palace

By: Roger N. Conger

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: December 1, 1994

After the end of the Civil War, with the development of the fertile agricultural lands of the Brazos and Bosque valleys, cotton culture became the mainstay of Waco's economy. It continued as such until World War II. For many years Waco was recognized as one of the major inland cotton markets in the nation. Consequently, in 1894 plans were laid for a fair and exposition center in Waco to be named the Texas Cotton Palace. A large main building was erected in Padgitt Park, and the first event held there, in November 1894, was highly successful. In January 1895 the building was destroyed by a spectacular fire, and the Cotton Palace was not reactivated until 1910. That year, with an elaborately expanded facility, the project was launched again, and it continued uninterrupted for the following twenty-one years as one of the most successful such expositions in the nation. More than eight million people passed through its turnstiles. On November 3, 1923, attendance hit a one-day record of 117,208. In addition to its spectacular opening-day parades, the exposition featured agricultural and livestock exhibits, competitions and contests of many sorts, art shows, horse racing, athletic events, and operatic and concert attractions. The Queen's Ball was the city's major social occasion each year. In 1931, however, the palace became a casualty of the Great Depression. In the fall of 1940 the cornerstone from the Cotton Palace's main building, bearing the names of the directors, was mounted upon a monument of gray granite at Lovers Leap in William Cameron Park.

Lavonia Jenkins Barnes, Texas Cotton Palace (Heritage Society of Waco, 1964). Farm and Ranch, October 28, 1911. Gulf Messenger, October 1894. Dayton Kelley, ed., The Handbook of Waco and McLennan County, Texas (Waco: Texian, 1972).
  • Architecture
  • Other Structures

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Roger N. Conger, “Cotton Palace,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994