Thursday, September 30, 2010

Uptown, Pt. 3

The extravagantly decorated Aragon Ballroom opened in 1926, about a block away from the Riviera and Uptown. The first non-movie house on our little walk, the Aragon was an immediate hit, due in no small part to it's proximity to the L train, which to this day runs just past the west wall of the place. But it was a beautiful room, had a huge dance floor, and featured some of the Jazz Age's top acts.

The Aragon was a truly ornate space. On entering people were greeted with granite walls hung with tapestries, and a grand, thickly carpeted staircase leading to the second-level dance floor. Upstairs, patrons were greeted with palm trees and lights twinkling in the ceiling. Designed to resemble the courtyard of a Moorish castle, dancers were transported to another world, under clear Mediterranean skies.

It couldn't last. Massively popular through the 40's, and boosted by nightly broadcasts by WGN radio, the Aragon's regularly scheduled dance nights had all but ended by the 60's, usurped by television and rock concerts. Rock concerts, of course, are one of the things that the Aragon is most widely known for by many Chicagoans-a series of heavy rock acts played the room through the 70's and 80's, giving rise to the nickname "The Brawlroom", a moniker it carries to this day.

The Aragon is another one of those places that just oozes history. I can easily see the elegant dances of the twenties and thirties, filing up the stairs, gliding over the cavernous dance floor.

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