Heritage, 2010, Volume 4 Page: 20
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being lost to neglect, abandonment,
urbanization, flood, and fire
In October of this year, Club 21 or
Uhland Hall, located 20 miles south
of Austin, burned to the ground. Es-
tablished in 1893, this historic site
was known as "the oldest continu-
ously running dance hall in Texas."
Unfortunately, the building did not
have fire insurance, and whether or
not the owners will be able to rebuild
remains undetermined. Shortly after
the Club 21 fire, Sparks noted, "This
hall was partially documented, but
we never really studied its history or
the bands that played there, and now
sadly, future generations will not get
to experience it." He continues to say
that the previous losses to fire of Bill
Mraz Hall in Houston (2004) and
Gruenau in Yorktown (2007) were
one of the motivating factors behind
forming the Texas Dance Hall Pres-
ervation organization. No matter the
circumstance, to TDHP, for every
hall that disappears from the Texas
landscape, a vital part of the state's
cultural heritage is destroyed. Steve
Dean says, "Traditional dance halls are
a symbol of how immigrants came to
Texas and made it their own."
One of the primary goals of Texas
Dance Hall Preservation is to pro-
mote and facilitate the restoration
of these iconic structures. Patrick
Sparks, whose company, Sparks En-
gineering, specializes in the evalu-
ation and restoration of historic
structures, and Steve Dean were
involved with the restoration of
Sengelmann Hall in Schulenburg.
The hall was built in 1894 by Ger-
man settlers, and Sparks explains
that Sengelmann, with its more
ornate two-story, Victorian-style of
architecture and in-town location,
was built on a grander scale than
the customary Texas barn-style halls
found in rural locations. Sparks adds,
"Sengelmann Hall is a beautiful and
significant historic hall, but the in-
vestment for its restoration was much
greater than for one of the more typi-
cal halls." Fortunately, owner Dana
Harper, a Houston artist, had the
personal means to completely fund
the project, which allowed for a
more historically accurate reno-
vation. Sparks agrees that dance
hall preservation can be a daunt-
ing effort for a business owner or
a small community. Yet, he also
believes that in most cases the
amount of money needed for ba-
sic stabilization of these endan-
gered buildings would not be out
of reach-with the assistance and
support of preservation funding
At the heart of Texas Dance Hall
Preservation's mission is the idea
that saving these heritage treasures
HERITAGE Volume 4 2010
is best served by dancing in them.
"TDHP recognizes that using them
for something like active retail, such
as an antique store, at least reduces
the likelihood of their loss," Sparks
explains, "but our organization would
prefer that these historic buildings be re-
stored and used as traditional dance halls."
Steve Dean's words best sum up
why saving dance halls is not just
about preserving history, but con-
tinuing what has become a truly
Texas cultural tradition.
Mention a Texas dance hall to some-
one, and while they immediately think
of cowboy boots and hats, this tradi-
tion is something that has been going
on since the early 1800s. Embracing
and experiencing all kinds of music is a
big part of this state's cultural heritage.
Texas dance halls are where several gen-
erations of families are still coming for
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2010, Volume 4, periodical, 2010; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254219/m1/20/: accessed July 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.