executive director Michele Price poses in the ticket booth
of the Chandelier Ballroom.
HARTFORD - There probably is no one who has lived
here for long who hasn't spent a cozy evening listening to music,
dining or networking at the historic Chandelier Ballroom on
It's kismet that as the city celebrates its 125th
anniversary this year, so to is the ballroom marking its 80th year
as Hartford's most visible link between the then and the now.
Executive Director Michele Price has been in
charge of handling the day-to-day operations of the ballroom since
After more than five years at the helm, she said
the ballroom has created memories she'll keep the rest of her life.
"I'll always remember last summer when a man
from Austria who was a German Army prisoner here during World War II
came back to Hartford and I had the chance to meet him when he
visited the ballroom. That sense of history and the ballroom's role
in history really brought it all home to me," she said.
"We had a wedding here last year were the
bride's mother and grandmother also were married here. It really put
the whole sense of history and how it flows from one generation to
the next in perspective," Price explained.
For Hartford resident Judith Bernd, the ballroom
stands as a constant reminder of the city's history and progress.
"I can remember Murlin (her late husband,
Murlin Bernd) taking me to the ballroom for something and telling me
about how it housed German prisoners in World War II. He'd tell me
about how they bused them to work in the Libby's Canning factory and
the city's old cheese factory," Bernd recalled. "There
were so many stories and I think all of us who've lived here a long
time, even a little bit, keep all those memories with us."
Bernd said the ballroom renovations over the years
have improved it's appeal and allowed it to remain a showplace.
"It's a lot warmer in there now and it's
intimate with a lot of character," she noted. "There's
just a lot of history there and you get a sense of that every time
you go there. I hope it's there for another 35 or 40 years."
Hartford resident John Spielmann, a longtime
member of Hartford Historic Preservation Inc. (nonprofit owners of
the ballroom), said he has many great memories associated with the
"I think I remember most the polka dances I
went to when I was a teenager," Spielmann said, noting that the
ballroom also houses the Polka Hall of Fame. "Also, as a
Rotarian, I've seen how it has evolved over the years to really
become a showcase for the community. The restoration has made it
like it was years ago. It's also important to note how management
has done a great job in keeping it as showcase for the entire
community that has the flexibility to be the stage for so many types
of community events."
Price noted the ballroom recently completed a
renovation project that topped the $500,000 mark. The Jeffries
Foundation donated $150,000 of that total and private donors
provided the rest.
The work included a complete reconstruction of the
front entryway, removing old acoustical insulation from the ceiling
and replacing it with modern materials, resurfacing the main
ballroom floor and replacing the infrastructure under that floor to
maintain structural integrity for years to come.
Price believes she still has much work to do.
"I think we're still sort of a hidden gem in
Wisconsin. As a nonprofit, we have to watch how much advertising we
do and I've always believed that if we can have 2,000 people a month
come through our doors, then word of mouth gets the message
out," Price said. "We want more people to get the
experience of visiting the ballroom. I have a wonderful staff that
always gives 110 percent so that a visit to the ballroom is
something a person can remember for a lifetime."
Chandelier Ballroom anniversary celebration
• Friday, Oct. 24 from 6 p.m. to midnight.
• Tunes of the 1930s and 1940s will be performed
by a 20-piece band decked out in full military regalia during the
opening events and dinner.
• Cigar and beer tasting session in the Steel
Craft Fireside Room.
• Sit-down dinner begins at 7 p.m., with hors
d'oeuvres available beginning at 6 p.m.
• The dancing begins at 9 p.m., with live music
performed by Mr. Lucky Swing Syndicate.
• Door prizes will be awarded throughout the
• Tickets are $100 each and are available in
advance at the Chandelier Ballroom and the Hartford office of the
First National Bank of Hartford. For information, phone
Chandelier Ballroom has
been a county fixture for 80 years
The historic Chandelier Ballroom on
Jefferson Avenue in the city of Hartford has been a county
landmark for 80 years.
The ballroom has a long history dating
back to the mid-1920’s with the Eagles Club/Schwartz Park
Pavilion (prior structures existed at this location as early
as the turn of the century). In 1919, the Schwartz Brewery
Company bought the Eagles Park and began leasing it and its
recreational facilities to the Kissel Mutual Association in
1920. In 1928, Joseph Schwartz Jr. began construction of the
The Schwartz Ballroom, as it was known
then, opened for business on Oct. 20, 1928. Norbert S.
Remmel, the son of Joseph P. Remmel and Mary (Schwartz)
Remmel, was the first manager of the ballroom. It took
several years after the original construction began to
complete the kitchen area and associated buildings.
The Schwartz Ballroom was advertised as
"Wisconsin’s Most Beautiful Ballroom and Suburban
Restaurant and Tavern. During the 1930s, the Big Band era,
some of the most popular bands played the Ballroom,
including Guy Lombardo, Wayne King, Lawrence Welk, Woody
Herman, and the Dorsey Brothers.
The ballroom was also used for
Presidential Birthday Ball and a prisoner of war camp,
holding in excess of 600 German draftees.
In 1949, Marty Zivko, a local musician,
purchased the ballroom and brought in local and national
music groups. In 1981, Zivko sold the Ballroom to Gary and
Marion Wendorff, who continued to bring in music attractions
and use it as a reception facility. Shortly thereafter,
Glenn and Vivian Hayden, and their son John, took over
ownership and used the Ballroom for large parties, wedding
receptions, dances, and concerts. The Haydens made some
restoration efforts during their tenure.
In 1996, the ballroom was purchased by the
Hartford Rotary Foundation, which has worked diligently
since then on various fund-raising campaigns to continue the
structure's renovation and to ensure it will be in existence
for future generations to come.
Source: Hartford Rotary Foundation