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Sengelmann Dance Hall will reopen after 60 years

APRILL BRANDON

By APRILL BRANDON
May 13, 2009 at 12:13 a.m.
Updated May 14, 2009 at 12:14 a.m.

Before it closed 60 years ago, Sengelmann Dance Hall was the place to go in Schulenburg.

Beginning this summer, owner Dana Harper hopes it will be once again.

Harper has completely renovated the historic building, which was built in the 1890s, and includes a dance hall, restaurant, saloon, biergarten and Czech bakery.

"Dance halls are on the list of the 10 most endangered places in Texas. I'm trying to keep their legacy alive," he said. "They are the architectural jewels of their respective communities, and it's where communities come together. And any place where communities come together is a sacred place."

Harper, who grew up in Houston, has deep family roots in Schulenburg. His ancestors, who emigrated from Germany, settled in the town. Although he bought the building 11 years ago, it wasn't until recently that he was able to focus all his attention on the renovation and restore the hall to its former glory.

"I've always had a love of Texas dance halls. I grew up in Gruene Hall in New Braunfels. My grandad took me there all the time," he said. "This project combines a lot of my interests, including architecture, Texas history and historical preservation."

Thanks to Harper's efforts, the hall is now a member of the Texas Dance Hall Preservation Inc. and has been named to the National Register of Historic Places. The building features the original plank flooring, carved marble pillars, pressed tin ceilings and a biergarten surrounded by native trees.

But Sengelmann Dance Hall is about more than just history. It's also about making memories. Harper has hired Steve Dean, who is big on the Austin music scene, to bring in popular live acts, such as Junior Brown, Cory Morrow and Billy Mata.

Music acts lined up for the summer include new Texas country, polka and Czech bands, as well as traditional Western Swing music.

"It's extremely exciting, especially now that we are so close to opening. My friends, family, the whole community has come together on this," Harper said. "It's unbelievable that something like this is opening in a small town like Schulenburg. It's a dream come true."


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