Sunday, July 31, 2011

End of a Historic Landmark

Gerry grew up in Benld, IL and lived there until we moved to Washington, DC once we were married.  I first talked to Gerry at the Coliseum Ballroom in Benld at a dance there in 1956.  The chat didn't go very well but I persisted and chased her until she caught me.  That is my story and I am sticking to it.

The Coliseum Ballroom was built in 1924 and had many big name bands of the era play there for many years until 1996 when it was converted to an antique mall.  Fats Domino, Tex Beneke, Louie Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington, Kay Kyser, Count Basie, Everly Brothers, Ray Charles and many others played there and people came from all over Central Illinois to hear them play and to dance.  It was mainly a dance hall with a 10,000 sq ft dance floor and not a concert hall like now days where you listen but don't dance.  

Well, that all came to an end last night when a fire broke out and the place burned for 3 hours and it took 16 firefighting units to put the flames out.  The roof is gone and I would imagine most of the interior is gutted also.  My niece took the attached picture from her cell phone early on in the blaze.  The quality isn't very clear due to darkness and the smoke, but you can clearly see it going up in smoke.  Sad night.  

Newspaper Article on Fire 

The naming of Benld is an interesting story.  A wealthy land owner wanted to build an addition to Gillespie and name it after his daughter, but didn't get very far with that.  So he built the town and named it after himself; Ben L Dorsey.  As far as I know it is the only place in the world named Benld which makes it easy to search the internet as a key word.  Since it is located in Macoupin County, IL and there is only one Macoupin listed, that makes it even easier to search for events there.  Great for genealogists.

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