Casino Ballroom, Santa Catalina Island

//Casino Ballroom, Santa Catalina Island

The Casino Ballroom is situated on Sugar Loaf Point at the northern end of Avalon Harbor. This Art Deco building was completed in the Spring of 1929, and is an engineering masterpiece. The structure stood taller than any building in Los Angeles at the time.

The ballroom took its name from the Italian “place of entertainment,” and does not actually have gambling of any kind. At the time of its construction, America was immersed in the Jazz Age and “swing fever” had taken hold, with large dance halls called “casinos” popping up throughout the country. The Avalon Casino, by far one of the most spectacular ballrooms in the United States (and the largest circular ballroom in the world), drew thousands of dancers who would come by steamship from the mainland.

Casino Ballroom in the 30s!

Twelve stories high and 180 feet in diameter, the Casino holds a large movie theater on the first floor with remarkable acoustic features and an immense hand-painted mural depicting the geography and history of Catalina Island. Above the theatre lies the Ballroom. At 10,000 square feet it boasts an arched 50 foot domed ceiling that holds five Tiffany chandeliers, rose-colored walls made up of full-length panoramic windows; an expansive outdoor balcony, an elevated stage, and spacious seating surround the circular dance floor. Sophisticated mood lighting is also used to create a magical ambiance for different tempos and styles of music.

To accommodate the 6,000 dancers that would normally attend a Casino dance in its heyday, the architects decided to incorporate a ramp as a baseball stadium would. Elevators would take too long and stairs could twist an ankle or wear out calves. Yes, this ballroom was built for dancers. The hardwood floor is constructed over layers of foam, pine and cork, all of which is suspended over five feet of air. It makes for a dancer’s dream, and eliminates all noise that could otherwise disturb the theatre below.

Sugar Loaf Point

Today, the facility is mainly used for weddings, conventions, and occasional music festivals and fire code limits the attendance to 1,200. The Catalina Jazz Dance Festival will be the only weekend event featuring what the building was originally built for – DANCING!

By |2010-11-09T00:59:51-08:00November 9th, 2010|Dance History|1 Comment

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One Comment

  1. Bobby Dias October 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    In the late 1950s the building was in general decay and closed, so I was called to try to raise money to fix it. Not easy- many around Los Angeles feared the history of the building being used for gambling. Who did not care about being connected to gambling? Las Vegas and Jersey people in legal casinos! $4 million was easy for me- I was currently sitting Entertainer Of The Year at ‘Teen magazine and 16 and Seventeen and Newsweek Time and Look and Life and Family Circle and even Playboy(I was only 14) and more magazines and newspapers. Me in an ad in the LA Times attracted many to the re-opening. Helped that I was on tv 5 times a week- I had the third half-hour of the Tonight Show. The re-opening was magical.

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