300 Cotton Centennial

An illustration of the exposition's façade

The Historic New Orleans Collection

Rising like a mirage out of the swamp that is now Audubon Park, a huge glass building, a wrought iron structure, a massive hall that could seat 12,000 and other structures were erected in a matter of months before the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition opened in 1884.

The exposition opened on Dec. 16, 1884, as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first shipment of cotton from the United States. The site featured a main hall that covered more than 33 acres and was the largest building in the country. The Horticulture Hall was the largest greenhouse in the world and was the only building left standing after the fair closed. It was destroyed in a 1915 hurricane.

The fair attracted about 1.16 million visitors, far short of the projected 4 million, and lost at least $500,000.The only remnant of the exposition is a large chunk of iron ore -– often erroneously called a meteorite -– in the middle of the golf course.Its legacy, however, lives on as the foundation of one of the city’s most important public spaces.