Sunday, September 25, 2011

Club Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach, NH

Erected to stimulate riders to the beach, the Casino celebrated its opening on July 15, 1899.
The 2 1/2 story wood structure ran 190 feet along the boulevard (boardwalk) and featured full-length verandas on both the ground and second floors.
Club Casino 1899
Illuminated by thousands of electric lights, the facility was opened on July 15, 1899 by Wallace D. Lovell, who owned the Exeter, Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway Company, with the hope of bringing more business and tourism into the Hampton Beach area.
In 1927, the ballroom was added to adapt to the changing nature of entertainment, when the national star was just coming into existence. The new owners wanted a facility that could hold 5,000 people, and thus the Casino Ballroom was born. After the expansion, the Casino Ballroom boasted the largest wood dance floor in New England, and 20,000 people made use of the massive space on a weekly basis that hosted acts such as Bing Crosby and Duke Ellington.[2]
Its popularity reached its peak in the mid-1930's big band era. Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and others, headlined the ballroom. Though liquor was prohibited and the dress code strict, thousands jammed onto the dance floor and danced beneath the large, mirrored ball.



The rise of rock and roll brought many more changes to the Casino Ballroom. The owners at the time sold the facility to a consortium of local businessmen interested in restoring it to its former glory. After renovating the facility and restoring many of its original features, the Ballroom reopened in the 1970s as Club Casino. Renovations, however, were not enough to draw promoters back to the venue. Seeing an opportunity, one of the new owners sought to book then-little-known names such as U2 and Ray Charles as a way of restoring the venue's reputation. His bet paid off, and following another renovation in the late '70s and early '80s, Club Casino began booking the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Melissa Etheridge and Phish.

So popular was the location, in fact, that it was able to fit 50 events into a three-month period, unheard of at the time for most music halls.
In the 1990s, the club started to develop a reputation for tough bouncers and strict rules against dancing. Again, changes were made to the Club Casino. In an attempt to regain some of its past glory, the name was changed back to the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, the facade of the building was redone, and the adjacent hotel demolished. The venue's season now extends from April to November, and it continues to bring in some of the top names in entertainment.[3]
On July 8, 1971, an additional 4,000 fans showed up to an already sold-out Jethro Tull concert. Ticketless fans started rioting and scaling the walls to climb in through the windows. Police and the National Guard were called in, and the incident resulted in the town of Hampton banning rock concerts for a number of years.[3)


On August 9, 1995, the day Jerry Garcia died, his former Grateful Dead bandmates RatDog took the stage to play a show at the Casino. Fans and media outlets descended on the Ballroom, filling the venue's parking lot to hold a candlelight vigil while listening to the band play inside.[3]


No historical accounts reveal, nor can resident experts say how the Casino got its name. That secret is apparently buried with Wallace Lovell. But "casino" did not then connote a gambling establishment; the word is Italian for "summer house." Lovell probably chose the term because at the time all things European were vogue in America; it sounded exotic.

Seating capacity 1600.


Jerry performed here on
8/12/84 Jerry Garcia Band
8/13/84 Jerry Garcia Band




1.)^Trodson, Lars. "Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom: A Century of Entertainment Excellence", 25-29 May 1999, http://www.hampton.lib.nh.us/hampton/history/casino/union/unioncasinotoc.htm
3.)^"Casino Ballroom History", 30 July 2010, http://casinoballroom.com/history.php

6 comments:

  1. I am very much overwhelmed by your thoughts for this particular story. http:/cardshistory.com

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  2. Jerry performed two nights here, the 12th and 13th. I was there. The second night the better of the two. The summer 84 tour was fantastic and Jerry played some of the coolest places that wonderful summer all those years ago.

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  3. Thank you for catching that...any memories of those two nights? Stuff that happened in the lot or inside? What was the interior of that place like?

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