NEW ULM, Minn. (KEYC) — An iconic building once the social hub for live music and dancing, now in its deteriorating condition, is being considered for demolition. But the memories made inside will live on.
In 1947, George Neuwirth opened the ballroom, the “it” place for concerts, parties and weddings, fueling New Ulm’s vibrant live music scene.
“Really it was an amusement center, it was more than just a bar. Originally it had a bar and it had a bowling alley. I happened to have bowled in that bowling alley years and years ago back in the 60s,” said Kathleen Bakcer, executive director at the Brown County Historical Society.
Sitting at 32,000 square feet, it once could house 3,000 people, equipped with 164 booths.
The center closed in 1991 and Neuwirth died four years later.
“So the property stood there and went into a state of disrepair, water coming through the roof. But in 2002, there was an effort to save the building,” said Backer.
Acquired by Brown County, then sold at auction for $1,000, new owners opened the building for a few years.
“But the project was so huge and over-demanding, it closed in 2005 or 2006,” said Backer.
The building then was forfeited again in 2019.
Today, its deteriorating conditions have the county exploring options for funding for demolition.
“It’s not really too feasible to fix things up anymore because [of] the mold, asbestos and health hazards inside the building. And there’s no way to remove that even in the surrounding brick of that building,” Brown County Administrator Sam Hansen said.
Drone footage shows trees and shrubs growing through the top of the building’s roof.
“No decision has been made yet, but we are trying to get the wheels running because we don’t want to be at this place one to two years from now and it’s still sitting there with no progress made,” said Hansen.
But the effort to save the nostalgic venue remains.
“So one of the recommendations is to save this marquee and mount on some type of a structure at the location where George’s presently resides, so that memory of that building can live on,” said Backer.