Demolished in the 2000s: Michigan State Fairgrounds, 1889-1960
The first Michigan State Fair that was held in Detroit took place in 1849, on Woodward Avenue just north of Grand Circus Park. While this event is considered to be the first “true” Michigan State Fair, there had been another state fair – Michigan’s very first - that took place ten years earlier, in 1839. That fair was held in Ann Arbor, just two years after Michigan became a state; but very few people came, dashing the hopes of having any more state fairs. There were no more Michigan State Fairs afterward until it was decided to give it another shot – this time in Detroit, where more attendees were expected.
Michigan’s first “official” state fair was a commercial success. As time went on, other Michigan towns and cities took turns holding the state fair – but there was no place like home…and in 1905, it was back in Detroit settling on Woodward at Eight Mile Road which became the permanent home of the Michigan State Fair.
The Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum was built in 1922, becoming the seasonal ‘home’ for animals and farm produce.
The younger people came for the rides, games, contests and music performances. Bob Hope made an appearance at the 1949 fair, and throughout the years we were entertained by Alice Cooper, ZZ Top, Boyz II Men, Bob Dylan, and many other favorites.
The grounds once held the world’s largest stove, built in 1893 specifically for that year’s World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. At 25 feet tall, the stove was planted on the Detroit fairgrounds in 1965 but started falling apart. Worse yet, it was shoved into a storage unit before anyone tried to repair it. Once repaired and returned in 1998, it lasted until 2011 when it caught on fire and was completely destroyed.
In 2009, Governor Jennifer Granholm ceased funding for the fair, thanks to state budget hassles, the public’s interest in stay-at-home internet activities, and low attendance. It returned in 2012 as “The Great Lakes State Fair” and came back as the “Michigan State Fair” in 2013. The property was later sold by Governor Rick Snyder, with some of the land turned into a shopping center. In 2020 the remaining grounds were used for Covid testing.
The fairgrounds Coliseum was sadly demolished in 2022.
Michigan State Fair, Detroit: 1889-1960