One of the comments I received after the first two of my book talks, was that older people who remember the park wished to see and hear more about dancing, especially with regards to the beautiful ballroom, "Virginia Gardens". Included in this blog post are some of the facts and images I plan to add to my next event in order to boost the conversation about dance platforms and halls enjoyed by park guests in the nearly 117 year history of the area known as Rock Springs.
This image from the very early years shows an outdoor covered dancing platform at the end of a tree-lined path used before any dance halls were constructed. According to Roy C. Cashdollar, the very first structure built on the site of Rock Springs Grove was “a sixteen foot square platform used for dancing.” (Courtesy of Richard L. Bowker)
The original dance hall in Rock Springs Park faced Carolina Avenue. Before the trolley loop lower entrance was added during C.A. Smith’s years, people would get off the street car and go right up the steps into the dance hall. (See Images of America: Rock Springs Park, p. 15) This side view of the original dance hall, constructed in 1897 by J.E. MacDonald was removed from the Images book in place of one from Doug Arner and Arner Funeral Chapel. Also a side view, Arner’s photograph (p. 16 top) shows pleasure-seekers filling the awning covered porch and walking the grounds. (Courtesy of Richard L. Bowker)
The second floor of the Casino Dance Hall (1906) had an 18,000 square foot hard white maple dance floor, which was larger than 4 high school-size basketball courts put together. Not only did people dance in the dance halls in the evening, but they also danced aboard steamships which carried them from Wheeling and Pittsburgh. (See a series of photographs of the Homer Smith in my book, pp. 56-57)
The Virginia Gardens Dance Hall (1927 – 1974) was used for proms and school dances, as well as, for skating. This article from Youngstown Vindicator – Jul 28, 1957, tells of the Golden Jubilee of Chester Celebration held in Virginia Gardens. (See p. 71 of my book for a photograph of the Jubilee Court)
In his History of Chester: The Gateway to the West (Part II), Roy C. Cashdollar notes some of the rules for couples dancing the tango in 1914: Do not, (1) wiggle shoulders, (2) shake hips, (3) twist the body, (4) hop, (5) flounce elbows, or (6) clasp your partner in a death grip.
(What? No "hopping?" Look out Easter Bunny!)