Roseland Ballroom, New York City

4.1
Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

The Roseland Ballroom (also referred to as Roseland Dance City) is a multipurpose hall, in a converted ice skating rink, with a colorful ballroom dancing pedigree, in New York City's theater district, on West 52nd Street.

The venue can accommodate 3,200 standing (with an additional 300 upstairs), 2,500 for a dance party, between 1,300 and 1,500 in theater style, 800-1,000 for a sit-down dinner, and 1,500 for a buffet and dancing.

The quirky venue has hosted everything, from a Hillary Clinton birthday party, to annual gay circuit parties, to movie premieres, to musical performances from all genres. It is best known after the American singer Fiona Apple threw her infamous tantrum during her concert at the venue in 2000.

The rear of the venue faces West 53rd Street and the Ed Sullivan Theater. It is seen virtually every time that comedian David Letterman has outside antics during taping of the Late Show with David Letterman beside his theater (prompting various attempts to paint the industrial-looking wall to make it look better on national television).

Roseland Ballroom History

Roseland was founded initially in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1917 by Louis Brecker with financing by Frank Yuengling of the D. G. Yuengling & Son beer family.

In 1919, they moved the venue to 1658 Broadway at 51st Street in New York. It was a "whites only" dance club called the "home of refined dancing", famed for the "society orchestra" groups that played there, starting with Sam Lanin and his Ipana Troubadours.

The all-white, ballroom-dancing atmosphere of the club gradually changed with the ascendance in popularity of hot jazz, as played by African American bands on the New York nightclub scene. The Fletcher Henderson band played at Roseland in the 1920s and 1930s.

Louis Armstrong, Count Basie (with his "Roseland Shuffle"), and Chick Webb followed with their orchestras. Other major-name bandleaders who played the venue included Vincent Lopez, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller. Many big-band performances were broadcast live from Roseland by radio networks; recordings survive of several NBC broadcasts of 1940, featuring the young Ella Fitzgerald fronting the Chick Webb band.

Brecker popularized marathon dancing until it was banned, staged female prizefights, yo-yo exhibitions, sneezing contests, and dozens of highly publicized jazz weddings with couples who met at the club.

As the club grew older, Brecker attempted to formalize the dancing more by having hostesses dance for 11¢ a dance or $1.50 a half-hour with tuxedoed bouncers (politely known as "housemen") keeping order. It was to work its way into stories by Ring Lardner, Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John O'Hara.

Roseland's Current 52nd Street History

The original New York Roseland was torn down in 1956 and it moved to its new venue on West 52nd, a building that Brecker earlier had converted from an ice-skating rink to a roller-skating rink. It had been built in 1922 at a cost of $800,000 by the Iceland ice-skating franchise. A thousand skaters showed up on opening night at the 80-by-200-foot rink on November 29, 1922. Iceland went bankrupt in 1932 and the rink opened as the Gay Blades Ice Rink. Brecker took it over in the 1950s and converted it to roller-skating.

Time magazine described the new Roseland's opening interior as a "purple-and-cerise tentlike décor that creates a definite harem effect." Brecker attempted to maintain its ballroom dancing style, banning rock and roll and disco. In 1974 Brecker told The New York Times, "Cheek-to-cheek dancing, that's what this place is all about."

Brecker sold the building in 1981 to Albert Ginsberg.

Under the new owners the Roseland began regularly scheduled "disco nights", which gave rise to a period when it was considered a dangerous venue and neighborhood menace. In 1984, a teenager was shot to death on the dance floor.

In 1990, after Utah tourist Brian Watkins was killed in the subway, four of the eight suspects (members of the FTS gang) were found partying at Roseland. As a result, Roseland discontinued the "disco nights".

Its low-rise three-story structure on top of the quarter-acre dance floor in the middle of midtown Manhattan has stirred concerns over its being torn down for redevelopment. In 1996, a new owner, Laurence Ginsberg, filed plans to tear down the venue and replace it with a 42-story, 459-unit apartment building. A spokesman for Ginsberg said the filing was to "beat a deadline for new, more stringent earthquake codes, which went into effect earlier" in 1996. The interior space has been subsequently renovated.
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Roseland Ballroom Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
19 reviews
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TripAdvisor
  • The Roseland is an ancient place, where hundreds of artists have been presented from all over the world. It's small, it's not a sand or anything like that. For concerts is very intimate and comfortable because there are few people who enter. I went to the concert of Lady Gaga, who turned out to be the last artist to appear in the Roseland for the definitive closure of the place and the woman who has had more presentations with a total of 7 concerts in March 2014. It was unique, you would notice that the place was old but had very good infrastructure and the feeling was unsurpassed
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  • Great venue! Large and plenty of room to dance when I got away from everyone! It didnt get too hot which is a big deal  more »
Google
  • I went there many years ago. I met a nice woman and we danced. Then I saw that at the center of the floor there was a curtained-off area. Maybe some poor soul was dying there right in the middle of all that enjoyment. I left, but when I went back , a man in the box-office growled, "Get outta here or I'll call a cop!" I did, and never went back. Four or five stars for what the place could offer, but no stars for that cashier. The place is gone now.
  • Just a beautiful old magical space I love to see shows here!
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