Time to let George’s Ballroom go
New Ulm clearly has an emotional attachment to George’s Ballroom, the iconic building on Center and German Streets that was the site for many a dance, concert, wedding celebration and other events for decades. People will tell you about the good times they had, how they met the love of their life there, courted and held their wedding reception there. They reminisce about the great bands they heard, on up through the 60s when rock ‘n roll took over from oompah music.
Sadly, George’s will be knocked down, according to the Brown County Commissioners. Brown County has taken ownership of the building and the property it stands on through a property tax default. After decades of neglect, decay, leaking roofs, ancient ventilation and plumbing, time has caught up with George’s. While its exterior, with its wonderful sign, doesn’t look that bad, the interior is shot. The cost of repairing, restoring and modernizing is just too staggering.
This has been coming for a long time. In the 1980s, the descendants of the George Neuwirth family let the decay start. There was hope it could be fixed up when Randy Danielson acquired it, but he didn’t have the resources to do the real restoration work needed.
Facebook commenters are lamenting the fate of the building, blaming everyone from the owners to the New Ulm City Council for allowing it to happen. The city, however, couldn’t do much about it but try to enforce the health and safety codes.
The golden age of the ballroom is long past. George’s is a remnant of that past, a relic whose time has come. The fact is, it makes more economic sense for the county to demolish it, even at the cost of $350,000 for asbestos removal and $500,000 for the demolition of the building. The property can then be sold and developed, and start producing more tax revenue for the city and county.
Certainly, there are parts of George’s that should be preserved. The sign, for one, should be salvaged, preserved and put up somewhere as a reminder of all the good times and memories that people have of George’s. Perhaps a farewell party can be arranged, one last dance outside the building, before it comes down.
After that, rest in peace, George’s.