100 years ago on the corner of 14th and West Burnside, Cotillion Hall opened its doors and invited the residents of Portland to come in and kick up their heels on the ballroom’s unique, mechanical dance floor. Visitors found themselves feeling as if they were dancing on air as they moved across the sprung dance floor, a feature specifically designed to absorb the shock of mass movement and thundering sound.
In 1914 the “floating floor” at Cotillion Hall was a rarity on the West Coast, and it has survived over the course of a century to be what is possibly the only ballroom floor of its kind in the United States today.
From the time of its opening on the eve of the Great War, the Hall served as a space for people to gather and celebrate the art of jazz music and dance. Due to a shifting social climate that brought about negative connotations in association with jazz culture, the ownership of the ballroom changed during the 1920s and the venue became a hot spot for square dancing into the depression of the 1930s. When ownership shifted again, the space continued to host square dancing through the 1950s, this time under a new name: the Crystal Ballroom.
Like the rest of the country during the 1960s, Portland was witness to great cultural change that manifested itself in the performing arts. A variety of musical acts ranging from Marvin Gaye to the Grateful Dead rocked the stage and delighted a generation of people looking for a new identity. The shows at the Crystal were so well received by young Portlanders that the city began to fear their influence on local youth culture, and in 1968 the ballroom was closed to the public.
In the years following, the Crystal was home to squatters with nowhere else to go or artists who needed studio space. The only events being held were private parties, and though the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, it remained closed to the public until it was purchased and publicly reopened by the McMenamin brothers in 1997. Today, the historic ballroom hosts a variety of events and is a popular place to catch a good show of any musical genre.
In honor of the Crystal’s fascinating history, a centennial celebration was planned at the venue that would span 100 days starting on Oct. 14 and feature 100 acts and events, both local and national, and end with a solo performance by Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy on Jan. 21.
Join fellow Portlanders and the McMenamins staff to help wish this Portland landmark a happy 100 years, and maybe stop in for a craft beer and some good food while you’re at it.
For more information and a full list of events/performances, visit http://www.mcmenamins.com/1947–100-nights.