April 17, 2017

Restored Dance Hall Brings The Two-Step Back To Small Texas Town

  • By: Gwendolyn Purdom
View of Sengelmann Hall from Schulenburg's Main Street

photo by: Ben Sklar

Main Street in Schulenburg.

In the late 1990s, while looking for real estate, artist Dana Harper walked into Sengelmann Hall, an 1894 building in Schulenburg’s downtown historic district. Built by German and Czech immigrants, Sengelmann Hall was an anchoring presence on Main Street, the site of balls and concerts until World War II.

Above the gutted first floor, the 5,000-square-foot dance hall stood untouched, with ribbons still hanging from the ceiling, bottle caps scattered behind the bar, and thousands of glass beads from fancy gowns embedded in the floorboards. “I had an image of people dancing,” Harper says, “a vision of the hall full of these women with silk dresses.”

He bought the property in 1999 and, with the help of $147,529 in federal historic tax credits, completed a $2 million transformation of the ornate red-brick hall in 2009.

Determined to bring the building back as a dance hall, Harper enlisted restoration architect David Bucek, of Stern and Bucek Architects, whose team used historical photographs to restore the hall to its original configuration, tracked down an original piano and bench, researched period paint colors, and reconstructed missing features—such as the first floor’s bar and front balcony—using reclaimed lumber.

Harper purchased the adjacent 1894 City Meat Market building for a two-story addition containing bathrooms and a staircase. In this way, he conformed to modern accessibility standards while keeping Sengelmann Hall’s historic saloon, dance floor, and back-yard beer garden intact.

Sengelmann Hall reopened in 2009, the same year it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and Texans are once again crowding the longleaf pine dance floor, helping rejuvenate Schulenburg’s once-sleepy downtown.

Preservation Magazine: Safeguarding The Dance Hall Days Of Texas

A group of people dancing inside a Texas Dance Hall

The Lone Star State was once home to as many as 1,000 dance halls. Now with only 400 or so left, local preservationists are getting creative to save them. Read all about it in the Spring 2017 issue of Preservation magazine.

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