The Lehigh County Agricultural Society held the first fair from October 6 to October 8, 1852, on Livingston’s Lawn, a 5-acre (20,000 m2) plot located east of Fourth Street, between Walnut and Union Streets, in Allentown. The initial fair was so successful that in 1853 the Society undertook the purchase of a larger plot of land, north of Liberty Street and between Fifth and Sixth Streets, on which ticket offices and a two-story exhibition hall were built.
Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, the popularity of the Allentown Fair continued to grow. However, increased attendance led to dissatisfaction regarding the fairground’s size, facilities, short race track and small grandstand. In 1889, the Lehigh County Agricultural Society purchased a plot of land on Seventeenth Street, between Chew and Liberty Streets, to serve as the new fairgrounds.One of the primary features of the new location was a new half-mile race track, with grandstands capable of seating 2,500.
From its earliest days, horse racing was a popular event at the Allentown Fair. In 1902, the fair’s half-mile track was regarded as “one of the finest in the country.” In 1905, racehorse Dan Patch set a record of 2:01 on the half-mile track. In 1908, a new grandstand was built at the Allentown Fairgrounds that increased seating capacity from 2,500 to 10,000. As of 2009, this structure remains in use as the Fairgrounds’ grandstand.