Music Hall's Ballroom
The 22,000-square-foot Music Hall Ballroom is Cincinnati's largest event room outside of those in the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati. When Music Hall's ballroom was renovated in 1998, Don Beck of Beck Architecture, Inc. chose an art deco theme to blend with architectural fixtures from the RKO Albee -- elements that were rescued and protected by Pat and Joe Perin and other prominent Cincinnatians and later donated to Music Hall.
The Albee, on Fifth Street between Vine and Walnut, opened on Christmas Eve 1927. It was the toast of the town for many decades, but its glamour faded over the years and in the 1960s it became a casualty of urban renewal. When the Albee was torn down in 1976, the Perins purchased many of the decorative fixtures and used them in the showroom of their company, Perin Interiors in Springdale. After they retired, they donated to Music Hall for the renovation.
When you arrive at the east entrance to the ballroom, the first thing you see are the bronze-and-glass entry doors. To the right is the Albee's walnut and brass time keepers ''cage'', where actors and workers checked in as they arrived at the theatre. Once inside, floor-to-ceiling etched mirrors and columns that once flanked the Albee's main marble staircase now grace the room's walls. Mirrors and paneling from the Albee can also be found in the restrooms.
On the west side, near the organ -- which, between performances, rests on a platform inside protective folding doors -- there are other Albee touches. The theatre's filigree cast-iron railing was the base for the design that covers the baffles on the Wurlitzer organ.
The center of the bar is also from the Albee. Since a larger bar was needed for Music Hall events, sides were added and were crafted to maintain the look. There are also design similarities to the Albee, particularly in the coffered ceiling, which is the same type of ceiling as that in the Albee.
The ballroom's $1.8 renovation was undertaken by the Cincinnati Arts Association (CAA), which manages Music Hall and the Aronoff Center. It was financed by a commercial loan issued through Hamilton County, to be paid back through higher rental fees and more bookings.
In 2008-2009, the Ballroom's main stage was renovated to accommodate the donation of the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ which originally played at Cincinnati's RKO Albee Theatre. Find out more.
When it opened in January of 1928 on the second floor of the south wing of Music Hall, the Ballroom quickly became the place to socialize and celebrate events. It was quite an elegant venue with its polished maple floor, perfect for everything from the jitterbug to ballroom dancing. At the outset, the hall featured Egyptian decor complete with a Sphinx.
Over the years, the ballroom operated under several different names. In the early thirties, it was called the ''Trianon''. And when African Americans held events there, the ballroom's name changed to ''Greystone.'' Today it is remembered by most people under a third name - the Topper Club.
In the 1960s, the decor changed from Egyptian to the Hawaiian theme that most people remember and included the world's largest color photomural - showing Diamond Head above Waikiki. The big bands and orchestras of the era played the ballroom, including Glenn Miller and Charlie Kehrer.