Thursday Doors – The Big-E

Rhode Island Building
Rhode Island Building

I mentioned the Big-E back in October in a conversation I was having with my buddy at the bar. I had hoped to feature some of the doors, but it was simply too crowded to get any good photos of doors. I realized that my daughter and I always go back to the fairgrounds in January for a woodworking show, so I tabled the doors until now.

I explained in a footnote in October that The Big-E a.k.a. The Eastern States Exposition a.k.a. The Great New England Fair is the 5th largest agricultural fair in the United States. I didn’t explain that it’s the only state fair that involves more than one state. New England has six states, and six states are featured in the Big-E.

The fair was the brainchild of Joshua L. Brooks in 1916. Brooks wanted to bring together all six New England states in one location in order to foster communication and to improve regional agriculture. The first Eastern States Exposition took place in 1917. Not only do all six New England states participate in fair, but you can actually visit all six states while attending the fair. This was another idea put forth by Mr. Brooks.

During the Big-E, you enter the exhibition grounds, specifically, the huge dirt parking lot through Gate-9. During the rest of the year, you enter through Gate-5. As soon as you pay your $5-10 parking fee (price fluctuates with the events being held) you find yourself on The Avenue of the States. Here, each New England state was asked to construct a replica of their original Statehouse. I can’t speak for the other five states, but the Connecticut building is, in fact, modeled after the Old Connecticut State House in Hartford. My understanding (from Wikipedia) is that the New Hampshire and Vermont buildings do not resemble their historic state houses at all – what can I say, you never know with those two. Also from Wikipedia:

“Much like national embassies, the statehouses and the land on which they sit are owned by the respective jurisdiction. Through an arrangement with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, they are administered by representatives from each state’s police force during the Fair. Due to this distinction, tickets for each of the six lotteries can be purchased among the houses.”

‘Cuz nothing says “Welcome” like buying a lottery ticket.

The Big-E fairgrounds is located in West Springfield, MA, which is only about 15 minutes from where we live in CT. Like every agricultural fair, you can see animal exhibits, learn about the industry and agriculture of each state, ride rides and play games on a midway and visit hundreds of vendors selling everything from hot tubs to Magic Mops to cookware. And, of course, you can eat. You can eat the blueberry pie from the New Hampshire Building that my friend and I talked about in October, and you can eat a Lobster Roll from the Maine Building, apple pie and cheddar cheese in Vermont and anything and everything dipped in batter and deep fried.

In the gallery today are the State Buildings, and their doors. I hope you enjoy this contribution to Norm Frampton’s fantastic Thursday Doors series. Please consider joining us. All you need is a photo of a door and, well, actually, that’s all you need. You have until Saturday at noon to post your door, visit Norm’s site and click the linky-thing. He’s made it very easy.

70 thoughts on “Thursday Doors – The Big-E

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    1. Thanks! We don’t go every year now that our daughter is grown and gone, but we make it back every two or three years. There’s something about walking in a crowd with a slice of blueberry pie and a scoop of ice cream (and not being abnormal) that is very comforting.

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  1. These buildings remind me so strongly of my alma mater, Eastern Kentucky University! Our buildings must have been built in the same general style. I like your CT one best; I’m a sucker for those recessed entrances. A beautiful bunch of architecture and detail. If I came, you could have half of my pie if I could have half of your lobster roll. Seeeeeeeeeeafoooooooood. I must have some sea lion blood in me.

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    1. I love these buildings. I feel bad for the food vendors on the way from the parking lot to the Avenue of the States because I’m trying to save room for pie and a lobster roll and maybe more pie. Thanks for the comment and the tweet.

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    1. Thanks Peter. I have watched them get those horses hitched up to that cart (it’s in the parade every afternoon during the fair) and it’s amazing. The company is still in operation, and well known for heavy hauling and rigging. These days, it’s cranes and heavy over-the-road trucks, but they started out using those horses and wagons in their business.

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  2. Most state fairs have lost their agricultural tradition because the machinery is getting too big and expensive and there is no room to demonstrate it. In the Midwest, the fairs are now located in distant rural areas, like the Big Iron show in Fargo.

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    1. My brother keeps urging me to attend the Iowa State Fair, but it will probably have to wait until I retire and can drive out. Airfare and hotel rooms both spike in August. I’d love to see a real tractor pull, but not that much. And I’d never go during an election year (which seems to be almost every year these days).

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      1. It is a good idea to stay clear of this region at least until after the Iowa primary next Monday, then things settle down a bit. Right now, the negative ads are flying fast and furious.

        Surprisingly, the nastiest place for negative ads is the lucrative market of Duluth Minnesota because broadcasts from there reach Northern Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, all battleground states.

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  3. Another great set of old-school doors and buildings, Dan. I like anything with columns, which add an especially classy touch. And hey, you can’t go wrong with horses pulling a red wagon …

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  4. Fabulous doors! I love Vermont, especially! Those lines, panels, windows — those transoms! And are those leaves lying there on the right? Lovely!
    I’ve never heard of this fair, but I’ve never met a fair I didn’t like.
    Lobster rolls. Gah. Not for us landlocked states!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Vermont is a very sharp looking building. I jokingly asked my daughter to move the leaves out of the picture but we agreed that there were too many to move with our feet. No lobster roll for you. Now, of course, I’m trying to remember the thing you get at fairs. I know you talked about it in a blog post.

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  5. I’m always interested in seeing regional architecture and events. Still blows my mind how vast and varied are our ‘United’ States. Denver just hosted its annual Western Stock Show which is a HUGE event here in the ‘wild west’. No magnificent architecture but plenty of things to see, hear and smell 😊

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  6. Ahhh – New Hampshire and Vermont are rebels after my own heart. Why limit yourself to what is rather than what you wish? ;)
    These look like they are huge buildings. The fairgrounds for this event must be massive!!

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    1. The fairgrounds is quite large. The Big-E is the only time they manage to fill it. The woodworking show we attended was in one of the smaller exhibit halls (still quite large) while a Bridal Show was going on at “The Better Living Center” – home of the Magic Mop sales guy – I swear, he’s there every year. The have a spring home show that fills three buildings, and I think that’s about the biggest single event outside of the fair.

      I always half expect New Hampshire and Vermont to form “Upper New England” but they might not take Maine with them. I better watch out, or Judy will get on my case. https://newenglandgardenandthread.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/thursday-door/

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  7. This is an extraordinary fair with beautiful and quality styled buildings. I thought the Fairfield County Fairgrounds in Lancaster, Ohio which made it into the Robert Redford movie, “Brubaker” was special grounds.
    I loved the states and how you say they hold the different tasty foods which represent their state. I am a big clam roll or lobster roll eater, Dan. I love the way we have walleye fish sandwiches here in Ohio but I would much rather have a freshly made East coast sandwich!! I love the details in the buildings, very ornate, academic appearance. I enjoyed the Big E and wished it had been something on my family’s “radar” when we were out East a few summers in the early 70’s! I would have enjoyed this immensely.

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    1. The fairgrounds are open and in use throughout the year, but the Big-E is only three weeks in September. Back in the 70s, it was running a shorter amount of time. They have a lot of permanent buildings, some permanent rides and then they bring in a buch of stuff during the fair. I’m glad you enjoyed this little tour.

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  8. I like the little balconies, and that bell room on Rhode Island’s State Bldg. Actually I like that building the best. So, they’re like little Embassies I’m thinking.
    You see some neat gadgets at the fair. The first time I saw a Vita-Mix was at the fair and He-Man and I wanted one. It took awhile but we finally bought one. I’ve never made soup with it though.

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    1. We see all kind of stuff and I’ve bought some. My wife bought cookware at the home show and bought more of it at the fair later that year. That was many years ago and she still loves it. I like the Rhode Island building. I can’t comment on or like your comments on the photos but I see them and i appreciate them. In (usually) smaller forms, the balconies are known as “widows walks”. In seafaring towns here, women would look to the sea for their husbands to return.

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    1. Thanks. The New Hampshire building is beautiful. It’s also the first one that we see as we’re walking to the Avenue of the States (and they serve that blueberry pie) so it stands out pretty well.

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  9. Wow, Dan! I really stared at your photos. I “feel” as if at one time these were stately homes and I was just imagining the type of people who lived in them. Gentry. Wealthy. History. I LOVE the columns and how they gracefully curve and how elegant the buildings themselves are. I felt transported to another century. *imagining life then* I don’t know why but I just feel a real connection with these buildings. Could the draw be Colonial? I’ve always enjoyed historical sagas that took place in the 1800’s. Great post!!! Thank you!! <3

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    1. Thanks Amy! I don’t know about all the buildings, but the Connecticut Building is a very good replica of the CT Old State House, which was completed in 1796. So, even though these buildings (the ones at the Big-E) were built in the 1920s, they represent the colonial times you enjoy. I enjoy history and walking through these buildings is like a trip back in time. The buildings are open at other times during the year, I want to go through them some time when they aren’t filled with people in search of pie :)

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  10. Beautiful, rich historical buildings! I’ve never been able to decide whether I would prefer to live in one of these grand buildings, a Scottish castle (I’ve visited many and they are magnificent!) OR the house Anne of Green Gables lived in!

    The Connecticut style of doors is my favorite! I love the contrast between the brickwork and the white. Beautifully photographs. Thanks for sharing!

    ML

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  11. Great pictures and post. So, all these buildings are in different states? because they look almost identical in terms of color, except the front side of the building. I loved the New Hampshire building architecture, a bit different from the rest.

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    1. Thanks! They are in different states (literally and they represent different states) but New England is a pretty small area of the US and it was all pretty well settled around the same time, so the old architecture is very similar throughout the region.

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        1. No, they’re used in support of tourism. Each state showcases its agriculture, manufacturing and tourist attractions in these buildings. There are people working in them when they are open, but they aren’t open every day throughout the year.

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          1. That’s good. Sadly, no such concept in India. Most of the buildings like these here are in horrible shape and poorly managed. It is only when private associations come together and pay for the repairs to maintain the heritage structures.

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  12. Nice photos of these buildings and their doors. Are they smaller than their originals? It’s kind of interesting and kind of weird that they have all their state houses replicated at this fare. I like New Hampshire’s curved entrance and Connecticut is very pretty with the two story one.

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    1. Thanks Deborah. I can only speak to the Connecticut building. I think it’s perhaps a little smaller that the actual building, but not much. The original State House was built prior to 1800 so the size was smaller than what we would expect today.

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    1. Thanks Deb. Yeah, I tried to get pictures during the Big-E but that wasn’t going to happen. It’s hard when you want to write something and then realize “this will work better in January” I’m not a patient person. They really did do a good job on our state’s building.

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