| WYOBRASKA HISTORIC LOCATIONS |
On January 25th, 1934, the Mitchell Dance Pavilion, located at the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds, was burned to the ground in what was believed to be an act of arson. This was entirely plausible as the previous July, two youths from Scottsbluff had confessed to using a deck of cards to burn down the McDonald Dance Pavilion in Scottsbluff in the act of revenge against the dance hall manager, and had been sentenced to a term in the reformatory in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Losses from the fire at the Mitchell Dance Pavilion were estimated to be nearly $5000 (over $110,000 in 2022), along with $1000 in contents that were the property of the American Legion.
Since insurance only covered $1500 worth of damage, and money was in short supply during the Great Depression, J. L. Sandford, one of the owners of First National Bank in Mitchell, secured the line of credit to finance a new building, and it was thus named after him. Attesting to the importance of this building to the community, a new building was erected less than three months after the destruction of its predecessor.
Sandford Hall’s beautiful 120’ by 50’ hardwood dance floor officially opened on Wednesday, March 28th, 1934. Hosted by the American Legion, Herbie Kay and his orchestra were the opening act along with Dorothy Lamour, who would later go on to stardom in the “Road to…” series of films with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.
Entertainers who’ve played at Sandford Hall over the years included Louis Armstrong, Lawrence Welk, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and many other famous swing big band acts.
In the days before the Interstate Highway System and commercial air travel, these bands toured the country by bus, and the going was slow and arduous. Mitchell was an ideal overnight stop on the 550-mile trip from Omaha to Cheyenne as these acts made their way across the United States. Sandford Hall was such a popular venue that people often drove for two hours or more in each direction to attend dances. Many acts drew over 1,000 people to the town of 2,000 during the heyday of the Big Band Era.
Located adjacent to the County Fairgrounds stadium and track, Sandford Hall is a one-story wood frame building 148’ long and 80’ wide. The arched roof covers a large open space, which is the dance floor. The arched roof and wooden, full-beam roof posts at the edges of the dance floor allow partygoers to dance the night away with no obstructions. The seating and stage areas are shed extensions on the sides of the building. This simple, yet highly functional design has allowed the structure to host numerous social gatherings and events over the past 88 years ranging from dances and dog shows to weddings. Many couples choose to get married outdoors in the trees west of the building and host their wedding reception indoors, where up to 500 people can gather comfortably in the space.
The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since July 9th, 1997. Once numerous, Sandford Hall is now the only remaining example of a dance hall left in the North Platte River Valley.
Sandford Hall is located at 130625 County Road East, on the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds. The entry to the fairgrounds is at the intersection of 13th St. and 22nd Ave. in Mitchell, NE.
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National Parks Service
Loius Armstrong photo by Maud Cuney-Hare, 1874-1936 – Negro musicians and their music by Maud Cuney-Hare.
Washington, D.C.: The Associated Publishers, Inc., 1936, p. 154. Copyright not renewed., Public Domain,
Story by: Kathrine Rupe