The planning and construction of the fair was marked by corruption and scandals, and Fair Director Edward A. Burke absconded to Brazil with over one and a half million dollars of the Fair treasury.
Despite such serious financial difficulties, the Fair succeeded in offering many attractions to visitors. It covered 249 acres, stretching from St. Charles Avenue to the Mississippi River, and was notable that it could be entered directly by railway, steamboat, or ocean-going ship. The main building enclosed 33 acres, and was the largest roofed structure constructed up to that time. It was illuminated with 5,000 electric lights (still a novelty at the time, and said to be 10 times the number then existing in New Orleans outside of the fairgrounds). There was also a large USA Government & State Exhibits Hall, a Horticultural Hall, an observation tower with electric elevators, and working examples of multiple designs of experimental electric street-cars. The Mexican exhibit was particularly lavish and popular, constructed at a cost of $200,000 dollars, and featuring a huge brass band that was a great hit locally.
The Fair opened on December 16, 1884 (two weeks behind schedule), and closed on June 2 1885. In an unsuccessful attempt to recover some of the financial losses from the Fair, the grounds and structures were reused for the North Central & South American Exposition from November 10 1885 to March 31 1886 with no great success. After this the structures were publicly auctioned off, most going only for their worth in scrap.
The site is today Audubon Park and Audubon Zoo in Uptown New Orleans.