The Hall of State, a museum, archive, and reference library, was erected in 1936 at a cost of about $1.2 million by the state of Texas at Fair Park in Dallas to house the exhibits of the Texas Centennial Exposition and the Greater Texas and Pan-American Exposition of 1937. The structure, designed by eleven Texas architects, is characterized as Art Deco. The T-plan shape has a central entrance recessed at the cross of the T, on axis with a reflecting pond. The front is 360 feet long, and the rear wing (the staff of the T) extends back 180 feet. The central part of the building, at the intersection, is eighty-eight feet high. The walls are surfaced with Texas limestone. A carved frieze memorializing names of historical importance encircles the building. Carvings on the frieze display Texas flora.
Above the central entrance is a Texas flag in symbolic relief sculpted by Harry Lee Bigson. At the entrance a sculpture, Tejas Warrior, by Allie V. Tennant rises from the bronze floors. The front wing encloses the Hall of Heroes and the four regional halls (East, West, North, and South Texas). In the Hall of Heroes stand bronze statues of Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, Mirabeau B. Lamar, James Walker Fannin, Jr., Thomas J. Rusk, and William B. Travis sculpted by Pompeo Coppini. In 1946 a bust of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz became the first addition to the Hall of Heroes; he was the only living Texan to be so honored. Each of the regional rooms is decorated by murals reflecting the character and history of its area. The Great Hall, or the Hall of the Six Flags, in the central wing, has a forty-six-foot-high ceiling. Murals on the north and south walls depict the history of the state and its industrial, cultural, and agricultural progress. These were painted by Eugene Savage of New York, who was assisted by Reveau Basset and James Buchanan Winn, Jr., both of Texas. At the end of the hall an enormous gold-leafed medallion displays the Lone Star emblem of Texas and representations of the six nations whose flags have flown over the state. The work of numerous artists is found throughout the museum. The lower level of the museum contains a library and archive of rare Texas books and manuscripts, a reception room, a lecture hall, offices, and workrooms. The Dallas Fashion Gallery, which opened in 1983, is also on this level. It displays rotating exhibits made up of artifacts selected from its 3,500-item collection.
After the 1936 exposition, the state of Texas leased the Hall of State to the city of Dallas until 1976, when ownership of the building was transferred to the city. In 1938 the city invited the Dallas Historical Society to take over the building and maintain and operate a museum, the library, and the archives. Herbert Gambrell was the first historical director of the museum. In 1989 The Hall of State underwent renovations, and in subsequent years exhibits in the museum have included Texas Paper Trail (1989), America's Star (1991), Dallas 150 (1991), and Brave and Noble Hearts (1994). The Hall of State had 75,000 visitors in 1993 and a total collection of three million items in 1994.