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The Bridge Ballroom

In the beginning of the 1930s, the Polly Prim soon went by the name of ‘The Bridge’ or ‘The Bridge Ballroom.’ During the 1930s and 1940s, the Bridge would operate similarly to the Prim. Dances, dinners, and fights were again very popular. However, due to some different factors, mainly from the Depression and World War II, the Bridge found some new niches. These included war victory parties, fundraisers and political events.

bridge dancing
Start of the 1950 dance season. Compliments of the May 26, 1950 Plaindealer.

Just like in the days of the Polly Prim, boxing was a very popular draw for the Bridge. According to the Plaindealer, the Bridge was one of the “best-known fight centers in Illinois.” Held on Friday evenings (Saturdays and Sundays were for dancing), a spectator could come in and watch a bout for around 25 cents. In 1931, the Bridge introduced wrestling into the fold, having boxing during the first part of the evening and wrestling for the second half. The wrestling didn’t seem to stick, as it was only advertised for a couple of times.

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V-E Day Announcement From The March 14, 1946 McHenry Plaindealer.

The Bridge was the site some memorable celebrations, most notably for V-E Day and V-J Day at the end of World War II. What became annual events for at least three years, the Bridge held the events working in conjunction with the McHenry American Legion Post #491. Similarly, for many years to celebrate Armistice Day the Legion hosted an Armistice Day Carnival or Dance. The Legion also hosted many other gatherings such as general meetings, fundraisers and holiday parties. During this time, the Bridge also had its normal dance schedule as well. Those we held on most Saturdays & Sundays, charging 10 cents a dance or 25 cents for three.

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List of speakers at political meeting including future governor William Stratton. From Mar 31, 1936 McHenry Plaindealer.

During the 1930s, the Bridge also became a popular place for political meetings and fundraisers. Both Democrats and Republicans took advantage of the Bridge’s spacious accommodations. Probably the most lively event occurred on October 24, 1936. Local Democratic party leaders were hosting a dinner dance to raise funds for Leo Daily, who was running for the state senate. All was going well until about 10:30 when a fire broke out by the bandstand and spread rapidly due to the paper decorations and political posters. Everyone was able to get out quickly and thankfully there were no injuries to any of the 250 guests. Despite a quick response by the McHenry Fire Department, there was about $500 worth of damages, including a repainting of the interior and rebuilding of the bandstand. The cause of the fire was determined to be faulty wiring.

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Sanborn Map From December 1933 Showing Overview of The Bridge Ballroom At The Intersection of Charles & Fox

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last run-in with a fire that the Bridge had. On the early morning of December 6, 1953, a neighbor across the street from the Bridge heard breaking windows and looked out the window to see the building engulfed in flames. Despite the effort from four fire departments (Crystal Lake, Woodstock and Barrington were called to assist), the Bridge was a complete loss. McHenry’s fire chief, Harold Hobbs, estimated the financial loss to stand at about $65,000 and $75,000. The business was between owners and hadn’t been used in months, it wasn’t even clear at the time of the fire who actually owned the building. While the lifespan of the Polly Prim/Bridge Ballroom was a short one, it paints one of the more colorful pieces of McHenry’s history.

Sources

  • “Englin And Whiting Win On Bridge Card” The McHenry Plaindealer. 24 Oct 1934: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 5 December 2018. “Armistice Dance at the Bridge.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 5 Nov 1931: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 21 January 2019.
  • “Bridge Announces New Attraction.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 12 Feb 1931: 5. Newspapers.com. Web. 5 December 2018.
  • “Dance Tonight At The Bridge.” The McHenry Plaindealer. 3 Sep 1936: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 21 January 2019.
  • “Democrats Meet Gets Too Hot As Fire Breaks Out” The McHenry Plaindealer. 28 Oct 1936: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 5 December 2018.
  • “Englin And Whiting Win On Bridge Card” The McHenry Plaindealer. 24 Oct 1934: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 5 December 2018.
  • “Final Plans Are Being Made For V-J Day Dance” The McHenry Plaindealer. 1 Aug 1946: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 21 January 2019.
  • “Bridge Ballroom Completely Destroyed in $65,000 Fire Of Unknown Origin Sunday” The McHenry Plaindealer. 10 Dec 1953: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 21 November 2018.
  • “Fire Haults Dancing of Democrats At Bridge Monday Night” The McHenry Plaindealer. 29 Oct 1936: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 5 December 2018.
  • “Legionares To Entertain” The McHenry Plaindealer. 7 Nov 1935: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 5 December 2018.
  • “Legionares To Meet Here Jan. 26” The McHenry Plaindealer. 19 Jan 1933: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 5 December 2018.
  • “Masquerade At Bridge Saturday” The McHenry Plaindealer. 26 Dec 1935: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 21 January 2019.
  • “VFW Plans Gala Celebration For V-J Day Aug 14” The McHenry Plaindealer. 18 Jul 1946: 1. Newspapers.com. Web. 21 January 2019.

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