George's Ballroom is located within New Ulm, Minnesota and serves as a historic icon to those who had the privilege to experience all the ballroom had to offer.
History of George's
George Neuwirth operated a bowling alley and bar in the 1930s and 1940s located at 506 Center Street in New Ulm, Minnesota. It was George's foresight to expand his business and, in 1945, was granted special permission by the Civilian Procurement Administration to build a new amusement palace on the corner of German and Center Streets.
Mr. Neuwirth opened George's Greater Amusement Center in October 1947, located at 405 Center Street, a popular venue for couples reuniting following World War II. The 32,000 square foot building was constructed with Art Deco featuring cream colored brick and entrances were accented in Artstone. The most prominent exterior feature is the neon sign, designed and built by A.B.C. Sign Company of Mankato, hung over the bar entrance on Center Street. The inside featured terrazzo and hardwood floors with contemporary chandeliers and accent lighting. Guests enjoyed the use of eight bowling alleys, ordered drinks at what was noted as the longest bar in the northwest and ordered food to savor in one of the 165 booths in the restaurant. In 1950, the total population of New Ulm was just over 9,000. The large building could accommodate up to 3,000 people!
The ballroom was extravagant for it's period in history offering a dance floor that was 86 feet long and 70 feet wide, 11 hand-painted mural panels gracing the walls in the ballroom and a large stage for touring bands. In no time, George's was the center of the music scene offering bands from several genre. Performers such as Lawrence Welk, Henry James, the Dorsey Brothers, the Andrews Sisters, Glenn Miller, Whoopie John and the Six Fat Dutchmen entertained thousands of people downtown New Ulm on weekends. It was a center for big bands and polka music.
George's Greater Amusement Center was renamed George's Ballroom also known as George's Bar or George's. In the late 1960s, the bowling alleys closed and the original bowling lanes were removed to make way for a second performance area named the Boom Room. The ballroom continued to offer live music as big bands gave way to rock and country music performers. In 1965, the ballroom hosted the National Poultry and Pigeon Show, signifying the importance of Neuwirth's hobby of pigeon breeding to his life. The ballroom closed in 1991.
End to the Ballroom Era
Following George's passing in 1995, his daughter Louis Hughes acquired the property. The large building remained vacant decaying for decades and ownership issues followed. Brown County acquired the property in 2004 due to tax foreclosure. The building was sold at auction and the new owners renovated and re-opened part of the historic building, but for only a year or two at most. The owners owed more than $25,000 in back taxes and, in 2019, the property was again deeded back to Brown County. The building continued to decay for another 15 years and trees and shrubs grew through the building's roof.
September 2019, the Brown County Commissioners approved demolition of the ballroom.
Minnesota State Historic Preservation
In order to meet state statue, the MSHP office and Brown County agreed to a suitable course of action to preserve the loss of the historic property. Options include salvaging items from the building for display at the Brown County Museum, salvaging and displaying the bar marquee and to install a "historical marker" on-site, organizing a street dance with live polka bands to commemorate the era and history of the ballroom, and to provide information about George's Ballroom on our website documenting history, memories and experiences of the ballroom.
A street dance was held on October 15, 2023 from noon to 5:00 p.m. with Dain's Dutchman and The Biergarten Boys performing polka music.