Roger N. Conger

COTTON PALACE. 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).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, Roger N. Conger, "COTTON PALACE," accessed June 19, 2019,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox