Each week leading up to our 50th Anniversary, we’re bringing you stories from the community about the history of the site. This week, we offer a perspective from the neighborhood that once stood where Hemisfair was built.
James Herrera was just a young boy when construction started on the Tower of Americas. From his family’s home near Leigh and Labor streets, he and his brothers watched over the months leading up to the Fair’s opening.
“It was an exciting thing to see,” James told us. “It was in our backyard – Hemisfair was our backyard!” Over the course of the Fair, James visited several times to ride the sky ride and the monorail. He recalls with fondness the fountains, a space rocket ride and the overwhelming feeling of just being at the Fair.
“It was like Mardi Gras. There were all kinds of games, rides, lots of kids … It was all just so nice.”
Many families lived in and around the area that would become Hemisfair. James related to us stories of walking through the neighborhood before the Fair, including trips to Saint Michaels, a Catholic Church and center of the Polish community. James remembers the huge stone steps leading to the front doors. Those steps – and the rest of the building – were demolished to make way for the World’s Fair, but the congregation moved down the street and now calls the church on Indiana Street home. In 2016, they celebrated their 150th anniversary!
Today, Hemisfair is changing and redeveloping, with renewed energy after more than forty years of inactivity. Through expanded and improved parkland surrounded by new streets, businesses and residences, Hemisfair is transforming into a neighborhood once more.
We hope you’ll join us on April 6-8 to celebrate our 50th Anniversary at ¡Viva Hemisfair! If you’ve got a memory from the last 50 years of Hemisfair, we’d love to hear about at hemisfair.org/memories.