Award Type: Honor Award
Built in 1894, the ornate red brick building on Main Street in Schulenburg, Texas, was part of the vibrant commercial district of this railroad town. With cast-iron Corinthian columns and a pressed tin ceiling, Sengelmann Hall, a longtime dance hall and saloon, was meant to impress. Built by brothers Charles and Gustav Sengelmann, the hall was the cultural hub of a tiny Texas town nestled in the rolling hills of Fayette County.
Residents and visitors gathered at the hall for drinks, games, socializing or a twirl around the dance floor for decades, until the music stopped in the 1940s and the building became an auto-parts store. When I-10 bypassed the town in the 1970s, the old dance hall closed permanently. By the time Houston resident Dana Harper bought the rundown building in 2007, few people in town realized it had once been a thriving establishment.
Harper's ancestors had helped found Schulenburg, and he was determined that the restoration of the dance hall would be as historically accurate as possible. Fortunately, much of the hall's original architectural features were intact. The original plank flooring, carved granite pillars and pressed tin ceilings were all in great shape, and the upstairs dance hall was virtually untouched. A long-vanished iron balcony was replaced, a grand mahogany bar replicated and an open-air biergarten recreated. After years of planning, countless hours of work and more than $1 million invested, Sengelmann Hall reopened in June of 2009.
“The Grande Dame of Schulenburg, Texas is as magnificent today as she was on the day the Sengelmann brothers opened her for business,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The restoration of this iconic dance hall is an example of how preservation can restore vitality, hope and pride to a community.”