A Context for Historic Texas Dance Halls: The development of the immigrant social halls in Texas and their place in the history of settlement, music, and culture by Patrick Sparks
Built mostly by central European immigrants during the development of the southwestern frontier, the dance halls of Texas represent a unique lens through which to study Texas history and culture. Most are rural wood framed buildings, without interior decoration, yet possess a simple elegance.
Today we know of over five hundred halls (extant and lost). At one time there may have been as many as one thousand. The earliest halls were built c.1850, followed by appearance of large numbers of halls by the 1870s, with the building of halls declining after the 1930s.
The traditional dance halls of Texas are found in all major ethnic groups: German, Czech, Polish, Tejano, and African-American. They can be see, too, as part of a broader pattern of traditional music and dancing that, perhaps due to isolation, has persisted on the Gulf Coast from Mobile to Brownsville for over 150 years.
This presentation will explore the definition of the Texas dance hall; how the halls are distinct from other venues such as night clubs, honky-tonks, and bars; typical dance hall architectural types; and the social and cultural contribution of the halls to the heritage of the Lone Star State.