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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Castle Ballroom, an Historic Dance Hall, Lies Vacant in Midtown

Posted By on Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 6:08 AM

Will a thoughtful developer bring the Castle Ballroom back into working shape? - CASTLE BALLROOM ST. LOUIS FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Castle Ballroom St. Louis Facebook page
  • Will a thoughtful developer bring the Castle Ballroom back into working shape?

The Castle Ballroom - one of St. Louis' few remaining links its jazzy musical past - is in need of a buyer. And despite some challenges, boosters see potential to rehabilitate the facility to its former glory.

Located at 2839 Olive St., the Castle Ballroom was one of the first dance halls that targeted an African-American audience. The building hosted a number of legendary musical acts such as Miles Davis, Louie Armstrong, Jimmy Forest, Clark Terry, Ernie Wilkins, Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

Landmarks Association of St. Louis wrote about the Castle Ballroom on its web site, explaining the structure's origins and history:

The Castle Ballroom, originally known as Cave Hall, was designed by architect John Paulus, and constructed in 1908. Built for owners Cornelius Ahern and Herman Albers as a replacement for Uhrig's Cave, where they had previously operated a dance academy and hall. Known as the Cave Ballroom, the new facility opened on August 29, 1908, with music provided by the former Uhrig's Cave Orchestra. The venue hosted dances six nights a week, in addition to private balls and masquerades. Beginning in the 1920's the hall became a popular venue for Jazz concerts, and in 1922 changed its name to the Castle Ballroom.

In 1934, the ballroom closed as the neighborhood was underwent a demographic shift. African Americans were becoming a majority in the nearby Mill Creek Valley due in part to racially-based housing restrictions. The venue reopened in 1935 under new ownership, and was managed by famed African American promoter Jesse Johnson.

More recently, New Edition alumnus Johnny Gill utilized the space for a music video for "Second Chance."

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