We all have great memories and stories about Memorial Coliseum (1954-2010), but we tend to ignore it's companion building...Exposition Hall.
For some 30 years, it was one of Corpus Christi's hottest spots for exhibits, dances, and conventions. Even though it was eventually attached to the Coliseum, it actually was built and opened two years before the Coliseum.
Bonds for construction of the building were approved by voters in 1949. The company of J.A. Walsh was selected as the contractor, and the famed architect, Richard Colley, would design the building.
Construction began in January of 1951 and would be completed in the Spring of 1952. The total cost of the 33,000 square foot building was $330,000!
The first event held in the new Exposition Hall was the Corpus Christi Art Foundation's 7th Annual School Art Exhibit, which opened on March 6, 1952.
The spaciousness of the new Hall allowed the exhibit to be ten times bigger than its 1951 show!
In its first year of operation, Exposition Hall hosted dog shows, home shows, agricultural exhibits, a "Battle of the Blues" concert, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineering hearing on replacement of the Bascule Bridge, H-E-B's annual Christmas party for employees, a concert by the famous "Light Crust Doughboys", church revivals, trade conventions, craft shows, a dance for 800 Navy midshipmen from NAS, and a Count Basie concert.
The Hall was an instant success, but with one very major flaw.
Early on, the decision had been made to construct Exposition Hall WITHOUT air conditioning. The magnitude of that mistake showed itself quickly.
Large conventions that were interested in coming to Corpus quickly pulled out when it was discovered that there was no A/C. The lack of air conditioning made Exposition Hall practically unusable from May through September.
Year after year, the city attempted to get voter approval for the sale of bonds to fund air conditioning. All attempts failed.
Finally, in 1957, a group of businessmen, led by Jack Ryan, partnered with the Chamber of Commerce to finance the project.
Bookings at the Hall skyrocketed after the A/C was installed.
Despite its popularity, Exposition Hall had a relatively brief lifespan. It only stood for 33 years.
It was heavily damaged during Hurricane Celia in 1970, and was quickly becoming outdated for most events.
I remember it as a place that was as plain Jane as one could imagine. There was never anything fancy or elegant about Exposition Hall.
It was closed in July of 1984 and demolished in the summer of 1985. Today, the site is part of Water's Edge Park.
Robert Parks is a special contributor to KRIS 6 News. Parks was a history teacher at Carroll High School for 19 years and is now retired. His knowledge of Corpus Christi history makes him a unique expert in the subject.