One of the reasons we have been visiting dance halls is to see them before they disappear. Many of the halls on the original list had fallen into disrepair, were burned, have had damage from nature or if lucky, have been repurposed. One of the halls listed as closed was Wright’s Park. If a place is marked closed and we are in the area, we still try to drive by the site and see what used to be. Last week we were in La Grange and Schulenburg where I thought we had visited Wright’s Park but discovered we were a few blocks shy.
We returned again this week to see a ball game and drove back to find the old hall. What we found was a dilapidated building, with two buzzards coming out of the upper level of the building. It was obvious it had been several years since dancers had been there.
An article about Texas music history detailed a little about the site. Here’s the link. In short, this hall opened it’s doors June 19, 1948 to celebrate Juneteenth. Juneteeth is the commemoration of the announcement from the Union army in Galveston on June 19, 1865 that slavery had ended in Texas. Wright’s Park used to hold one of the biggest celebrations, and according to the link, B.B. King and Albert Collins played here.
It was sad to see how the space was no longer viable but timely, as we planned to see a documentary on saving dance halls in Texas that afternoon. The film Dance Hall Days by Erik McCowan was being shown at the Austin Film Society Cinema. It has been shown in various old halls lately and we were excited to view it in Austin. Stephen Dean was instrumental in the push to save old halls, the reason for the documentary and the one who compiled the original list I spent so much time trying to find. Sadly, Stephen died April, 2018 before I could make his acquaintance. The film was an amazing tribute to Stephen, the owners who are trying to keep the community spirit of local halls alive and a visual tour of many halls we have yet to visit. Thank you Erik for the documentary and for your dance hall road trips! If you want to take a tour with Erik, here’s his link.
I was gifted a list of Stephen Dean’s dance hall list and photos. He had taken some pictures of Wright’s Park in its early days. They are posted below.