Financial Failings of the 1884 Cotton Centennial Exposition

Stroll past the Newman bandstand to one last imaginative view of the vastness of the Main Building with the Mexican Mining Pavilion beside it. The golf course now occupies most of the grounds on which the Main Building sat. These ghostly images from the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition are almost all that is left of its splendid but long-ago existence.

Too few people came to see the marvels offered here. Developers promised over five million people, but only 1,158,840 came to the grounds during the fair's six-month run. Attendance rarely exceeded 4000 people a day, so gate receipts never matched the enormous cost of mounting and maintaining such a spectacle. Despite an initial federal loan of $1 million and an additional $350,000, the exposition ended $470,000 in debt. That it was incomplete in the beginning, as journalists reported, further discouraged visitors from distant regions to make the trip to New Orleans.

By April 1886, the Main Building and others were sold as scrap lumber and used to construct many houses in this area. One hundred years after the first World's Fair, developers symbolized the contours of the Main Building for Centennial Plaza at the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition.