Welcome To My Blog

Weekends are for wandering Wisconsin. That's what Rick, my guy, and I do. Occasionally we wander during the week, too. Sometimes we just drop in on other people's lives.

This blog is my way of sharing where we've been, neat places and things to do that we've found.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Chandelier Ballroom

A few weeks ago a friend of Rick was married. The reception was at the Chandelier Ballroom in Hartford WI. What a beautiful and interesting place. The Ballroom also held a few memories for Rick, but he'll have to tell you about those!

The Chandelier Ballroom opened as the Schwartz Ballroom on October 20, 1928.
Dance halls were popular in the 1920s because of the big bands. Their music was broadcast on the radio and soon the "new urban sound" became a craze of the nation.
The Schwartz Ballroom was designed by Milwaukee architect, Robert Messmer, and funded by local brewer Joseph Schwartz, Jr. The octagonal "Great Hall" rises 36 feet at its center. 
This one-ton wrought iron art deco chandelier hangs from the center of the ballroom.
The unobstructed dance floor can accommodate 1500 dancing couples (or about 350 people seated at tables for a wedding reception). 
From the entrance looking left....
and to the right.

Major performers of the time came to the Schwartz Ballroom and in 1931 local Milwaukee radio station WTMJ broadcast live via CBS, giving the Schwartz coast-to-coast recognition. Guy Lombardo (of New Year's Eve fame) and his Royal Canadians drew a record crowd of 6000 who jammed the Ballroom while several hundred more listened from outside. 
The ballroom was pressed into wartime service from 1944 to 1946, serving as a Prisoner of War camp for 300 or more German POWs. Prisoners provided labor at local factories, making up for labor shortages created by the war. Following the close of the war, the Schwartz went into bankruptcy. Marty Zivko, who had performed at the Schwartz with his "Polka Boys" purchased the building at auction and it became Marty Zivko's Schwartz Ballroom.  

Zivko brought rock 'n' roll bands to the Ballroom in the 1960s and the bands attracted thirsty young people from Milwaukee. The drinking age in Milwaukee County was 21 but only 18 in Washington County were Hartford is located.

The Ballroom had several owners after Marty Zivko until it was bought by the Hartford Rotary in the late 1990s. Rotary members planned to generate revenue from the Ballroom that could be returned to the city. They also wanted to ensure that the building would remain in Hartford for future generations. It was at this time that the Ballroom became the Chandelier Ballroom. The Ballroom was renovated and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The Chandelier Ballroom is now owned by the Hartford Historic Preservation Foundation. 
Lights throughout the Ballroom reflect the design of the main chandelier.
Thanks to the vision of those 50 Rotary members more than a decade ago, the Chandelier Ballroom is a magnificent piece of history that still stands today. 

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