Schuyler, Nebraska's Oak Ballroom

The W.P.A. At Work in Nebraska

The Oak Ballroom, Schuyler, Nebraska

The building of the Oak Ballroom in Schuyler, Nebraska, in 1937, was the result of funds coming from the WPA, Works Project Administration, during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt presidency. The WPA funds were to assist local administrations to support projects in their areas.

Through the vision of country doctor, Dr. S.B. Kory, various Schuyler officials and the needs of many unemployed, plans were begun for the construction of the Oak Ballroom. The ballroom was to be located at the entrance of the city park, leading to a modern golf course, fishing grounds, a swimming pool, tennis courts, baseball and football fields along with picnic and playground areas.

The Oak Ballroom

Oak trees from the Linwood area and stone from the area were used for lumber and pillars to construct this building which became a popular dance hall during the 30's, 40's, and 50's. It took two years to build the ballroom. The cost of the building was $37,000, with Schuyler's share of $10,000 being covered by a bond issue.

When work was begun, the site was treeless. Lost Creek was a wandering slough aimlessly rippling along in search of Shell Creek. The banks of the creek were barren of trees and a less likely spot for the shady recreation area of today can hardly be imagined. When the park opened in 1937, 1,100 trees were planted.

On May 4, 1937, the project was completed, and the first dance brought hundreds of people. The Lawrence Welk band was the first band to play the Oak.

Big Band Posters Displayed at the Oak Ballroom

The Bar Room Entrance -- Note the native timber!

In addition to the oak timbers which dominate the ballroom, there is a large handpainted mural depicting a wagon train on the old Mormon trail. The mural was painted with gold leaf by James B. Ridgway of Council Bluffs and originally completed in the spring of 1960. The 10 ft. by 14 ft. mural was retouched and brightened up about 4 years ago (1993).

The Mural

The Oak Ballroom today still stands proudly, a famous Schuyler landmark. The sounds of the big bands are gone, but the ballroom lives on proudly as a symbol of the "never die" attitude of the 1930's.

The WPA sign on the side of the Oak Ballroom