• Ricki King

First 73 acres of Iowa State Fair land

Updated: Jun 20

I love the Iowa State Fair. I have no connection to it except I am an Iowan. Boy, how much more could a person love the Iowa State Fair? Well, I am sure the feeling of visiting the fair is different if your family sold the first 73 acres of land to what would become the greatest fair (in my opinion).


I met a person whose relative Calvin Thornton sold that first 73 acres. Another relative sold a “neighboring farm that has since become part of the 378-acre ground” that existed in 1958. My thought was how cool to be able to visit family land when you go to the fair. I also wondered what part of the fairgrounds was Mr. Thornton’s land? Roy A. Wilkins mentions in the 1958 story by The Des Moines Register his grandfather Calvin Thornton’s home was the superintendent house.


This year’s fair ended last Sunday on 18 August 2019. This story makes me already miss the fair. I want to walk around during the fair and walk up to Mr. Thornton’s house and image him there. Of course, if the house is still standing it probably looks nothing like his house from the outside to the inside. A girl can dream about a simple time when men were considering and making the decision of where the permanent home of the Iowa State Fair would be from then on. This would only be a dream because I would not want to live in 1886. I do love the modern conveniences of 2019.


Footnote: “His Grandpa Sold Fair’s First Land” The Des Moines [Iowa] Register, 22 August 1958; digital image, NewspaperArchive (https://newspaperarchive.com/ : accessed 18 August 2019), p. 16, c. 3-4.

“His Grandpa Sold Fair’s First Land” The Des Moines [Iowa] Register, 22 August 1958; digital image, NewspaperArchive (https://newspaperarchive.com/ : accessed 18 August 2019), p. 16, c. 3-4.

Roy A. Wilkins, grandfather Calvin Thornton, and Iowa State Fair.




Roy A. Wilkins, grandfather Calvin Thornton, and Iowa State Fair.




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