Clio Logo

The first Roseland Ballroom was built in 1918 by Louis Breker, a dance enthusiast, who partnered with Frank Yuengling of the D. G. Yuengling & Son beer company. The facility was built on 12th and Chestnut in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s blue laws caused them to move to New York. Blue laws, or Sunday laws, restrict certain activities (usually leisure or entertainment) on Sundays for religious reasons. There, the second Roseland Ballroom was founded at 51st Street and Broadway and opened in 1919. [1]


  • The Roseland Ballroom.

The Roseland Ballroom at 51st Street and Broadway was wildly popular. Breker and Yuengling made 18,000 dollars the first night they opened. Famous dancers like Joan Crawford and Betty Grable appeared on the dance floor during this time. Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra performed there with Louis Armstrong. Besides dancing, the facility held contests, promotional events, and weddings. Breker was once said to have given 200 dollars to a couple who would “demonstrate their love by getting married there.” That night, Robert Wagner and Katherine Bott were married. In 1957, the ballroom moved again, to 52nd Street and Broadway, occupying an old skating rink. When Breker died, the ballroom was handed down to his daughter, who ran it like her father “except for the addition of disco in the late 1970’s.” In the 1980’s, the ballroom was refurbished and sold to Albert Ginsberg. [2]

            According to the New York Times, “When he took over the Roseland Ballroom last month, there was immediate speculation that Albert Ginsberg planned to raze the landmark to make way for a skyscraper.”[3] People were upset but understood why Ginsberg wanted to do this. After this was announced, he said he was not planning to do it. He wanted it to “remain a ballroom for ballroom dancing with a little late night disco on the weekends and occasional live musical acts.”[4] He wanted to show people that he was committed to the ballroom and gave people proof by saying he involved his whole family. The ballroom employed his son, two daughters and his son-in-law. [5]

            However, some tragedies have struck the Roseland Ballroom. In 1984, an 18 year old was fatally shot in the ballroom. No motive was established, and the culprit was believed to have escaped during the confusion while there were 1,400 dancers in the ballroom.[6] The ballroom was so popular that some people would do anything for money to go to it. Young men killed a Utah tourist, Brian Watkins, and assaulted his family to get money for the Roseland Ballroom during the 80’s. There was noticeable danger around New York clubs during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Following the killing of Watkins, the Roseland Ballroom management shut down disco nights “because of pressure from community groups that had complained about the noise and violence.”[7]

            The Roseland Ballroom venue was closed permanently on April 7, 2014. This ballroom hosted acts from Fletcher Henderson, The Rolling Stones, Green Day, and Beyoncé. Lady Gaga played the last show at the Roseland Ballroom. It was her hometown venue. The “world’s favorite ballroom” started in 1918 and its visitors witnessed ballroom dancing, disco, rock, grunge, pop and electric dance music.[8] As the New York Times wrote, “Despite its age and condition, Roseland Dance City is a fascinating leftover in New York entertainment culture – there is no hype, no marketing, no product tie-ins, just the swirl of dancers from expert to beginner.”[9] The Roseland Ballroom is truly timeless.


 


[1] “The History of the Roseland Ballroom.”

[2] Albin Krebs and Robert Thomas, Jr. "Notes On People; It's On With the Dance." The New York Times. October 27, 1981. Accessed February 18, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/1981/10/27/nyregion/notes-on-people-it-s-on-with-the-dance.html.

[3] “Notes On People; It’s On With The Dance”

[4] “Notes On People; It’s On With The Dance”

[5] "18-Year-Old Is Killed In Roseland Ballroom." The New York Times. November 11, 1984. Accessed February 18, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/1984/11/11/nyregion/18-year-old-is-killed-in-roseland-ballroom.html.

[6] Felicia R. Lee. "Dark Side to New York's Neon Clubs." The New York Times. September 13, 1990. Accessed February 18, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/13/nyregion/dark-side-to-new-york-s-neon-clubs.html.

 

[7] Brian McManus. "Lady Gaga Concerts to Close New York's Famed Roseland Ballroom." Internet Archive Wayback Machine. November 19, 2013. Accessed February 18, 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20141027202757/http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2013/11/lady_gaga_con....

 

[8] Christopher Gray. “An Old-Fashioned Dance to the Music of Time.” The New York Times. October 13, 1996. Accessed February 18, 2019. http://www.nytimes.com/1996/10/13/realestate/an-old-fashioned-dance-to-the-music-of-time.html.


Bibliography

"18-Year-Old Is Killed In Roseland Ballroom." The New York Times. November 11, 1984. Accessed February 18, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/1984/11/11/nyregion/18-year-old-is-killed-in-roseland-ballroom.html.

 

Gray, Christopher. "An Old-Fashioned Dance to the Music of Time." The New York Times. October 13, 1996. Accessed February 18, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/1996/10/13/realestate/an-old-fashioned-dance-to-the-music-of-time.html.

 

"The History of the Roseland Ballroom." Internet Archive Wayback Machine. October 5, 1999. https://web.archive.org/web/19991005040609/http://www.roselandballroom.com/histofroseland.htm.

 

Krebs, Albin, and Robert MCG. Thomas, Jr. "Notes On People; It's On With the Dance." The New York Times. October 27, 1981. Accessed February 18, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/1981/10/27/nyregion/notes-on-people-it-s-on-with-the-dance.html.

 

Lee, Felicia R. "Dark Side to New York's Neon Clubs." The New York Times. September 13, 1990. Accessed February 18, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/13/nyregion/dark-side-to-new-york-s-neon-clubs.html.

 

McManus, Brian. "Lady Gaga Concerts to Close New York's Famed Roseland Ballroom." Internet Archive Wayback Machine. November 19, 2013. Accessed February 18, 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20141027202757/http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2013/11/lady_gaga_conce.php.

 

Additional Readings

 

            Griggs, Mary Beth. "Why the Roseland Ballroom Had to Stop Dancing." Smithsonian.com. April 07, 2014. Accessed February 20, 2019. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/why-roseland-ballroom-had-stop-dancing-180950443/.

 

Margolies, Jane. "Next Act for Roseland Ballroom Site." The New York Times. August 17, 2018. Accessed February 20, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/17/realestate/next-act-for-roseland-ballroom-site.html.