When Mother Nature dealt a deathblow to the long-neglected Castle Ballroom in Midtown St. Louis, in the form of high winds that collapsed the building’s sidewalls, Pat Brannon, proprietor of South City’s famed Casa Loma Ballroom, never dreamed the aftershocks would impact his business. But confusion surrounding the two ballrooms that both begin with the letter “C” has proven to be disastrous for the Casa Loma.
“We’re still in business. We’re still here. We’re not going anywhere. The Casa Loma is alive, well and open for business. We’re not slated for demolition. We’re thrilled to be a part of the resurgent Cherokee Street Business District,” explained Brannon.
Since the news of the Castle Ballroom’s demise, call volume has more than doubled for Brannon’s Casa Loma, with confused callers asking where concerts, dances and wedding receptions will be moved, or if tickets and deposits will be refunded. Attendance at events has dropped. And the community has mistaken one of America’s last great ballrooms with one that closed over a half-century ago and had fallen into disrepair after 65 years of neglect.
“I had a grandfather call us in a panic about his granddaughter’s wedding reception scheduled for June,” said Brannon. “He wanted to know if we had secured an alternate site or if the family could get a refund on their deposit. I had to tell him multiple times that we were still open, that nothing happened here. I think the community simply heard the word ‘ballroom’ and assumed the news was about us. I’m not sure how many people in St. Louis today even knew the Castle Ballroom once existed—the placed closed before Eisenhower became President. And I’m not sure how we fix this misunderstanding.”
“We can’t let confusion over the demolition of a long-shuttered business be the undoing of one of our city’s treasures,” commented regular Casa Loma patron and local business owner Bill Shelton. “The Casa Loma is the last ballroom in America to host weekly dances to the sounds of a live big band orchestra. If the Casa Loma disappears, then not only does St. Louis lose a piece of history; America loses an iconic cultural venue. St. Louis needs to stand up and rally ‘round the Casa Loma. We can’t afford for a misunderstanding to mark the end of an era.”
Considered a South St. Louis institution, the Casa Loma has played host to events ranging from one of Frank Sinatra’s first concerts in 1936 to the Harley-Davidson Leather & Lace Ball earlier this year to the nationally acclaimed Beggar’s Carnivale Vaudevillian Circus & Burlesque Show.
With its usual weekly dances, upcoming concerts and more, Brannon and his staff at the Casa Loma are hoping St. Louisans begin returning to the historic hall and start calling to make reservations rather than asking for refunds based on a case of mistaken identity.
“To draw from the classic Mark Twain quote,” laughed Brannon, “Reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
About The St. Louis Casa Loma Ballroom
Located at the corner of Iowa and Cherokee Streets in the heart of South St. Louis, the historic Casa Loma Ballroom is one of America’s last great ballrooms and still offers live big band dances every week. Opened in 1927, the Casa Loma remains a treasured St. Louis entertainment nightspot, attracting nationally recognized stage and music talent. The intimate prohibition-era ballroom holds just under 1,000 people and retains much of its original charm, in addition to recently added modern amenities.
This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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