New York's original Roseland Dance City opened in 1919 at 1658 Broadway and 51st Street as a "whites only" dance club, boasting "refined dancing," where cool cats pranced around doing the jitterbug, Lindy Hop and Charleston under the club's star-studded ceiling.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, orchestras that played the venue included Vincent Lopez, Harry James, Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. The appearance by Count Basie was a turning point in his career and a breakthrough in the all-white atmosphere of the club.
As times changed, founder Louis Brecker popularized marathon dancing at Roseland (until it was banned), staged female prizefights, yo-yo exhibitions, sneezing contests and dozens of highly publicized jazz weddings with couples who met at the club.
In 1956, the original Roseland was torn down and it moved to its current venue at 239 West 52nd between Broadway and Eighth Avenue—in a building Brecker converted from an ice-skating rink to a roller-skating rink. The entrepreneur attempted to maintain its original ballroom dancing style, banning rock and disco for decades. In 1974 Brecker told The New York Times, "Cheek-to-cheek dancing, that's what this place is all about."
That is, until 1981, when Brecker sold the building and Roseland began regularly scheduled "disco nights," which angered locals, who considered the crowd unseemly and a "neighborhood menace."
Its low-rise three-story structure on top of the quarter-acre dance floor in the middle of midtown has long been a target for reconstruction. In 1996, new owner Laurence Ginsberg planned to tear down the venue and replace it with a 42-story, 459-unit apartment building. It never happened.
Today, Roseland Ballroom continues to host live acts such as Beyonce, The Script and Primus (in August 2011), as well as special events, including dinners, corporate conventions, charity fundraisers and fashion shows.