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Scotts Bluff, Nebraska

Sandford Hall

Sandford Hall
Sandford Hall
National Park Service

Sandford Hall in Mitchell has long been known throughout much of the North Platte Valley as a central location for social gatherings. The hall has served the community since 1934 as a public dance hall and place for community events.  Once numerous, the simple dance halls Sanford Hall represents are very rare today.  This one has changed little over time and is the only extant example of its type in the North Platte Valley. When the Mitchell Dance Pavilion at the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds burned down in January 1934, the County Board obtained a loan, built Sandford Hall to replace the Pavilion, and opened the new entertainment venue in just over three months, using the help of local school boys. The speed with which the community replaced the burned building with a new dance hall and the quality of the entertainment and the huge crowds it drew attest to the value the community put on having this entertainment and recreation facility.

The ability of the community to replace the destroyed Pavilion depended upon a very scarce commodity in Depression-era 1934: money. Luckily, local banker J. L. Sandford had an interest in the welfare of the community and the fate of the dance hall.  The County Fair Board gratefully named the new entertainment venue after Sandford, one of the owners of the First National Bank in Mitchell, who helped the board obtain a line of credit to build Sandford Hall.

In March of 1934, the American Legion sponsored the Grand Opening where the nationally known musical act, Herbie Kay and His Orchestra, played to a huge crowd. Movie star and singer Dorothy Lamour joined the band as the vocalist. During the heyday of the Big Band era, a number of other big names played at Sandford Hall, including Stan Kenton, Ted Weems with Perry Como, Artie Shaw, Les Brown, Glen Miller, Harry James, Henry Busse, Art Kassel, Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey, Lawrence Welk, and Benny Goodman. According to oral tradition, these nationally known bands would stop in Mitchell on their way to Denver from Omaha or Chicago. The Mitchell American Legion sponsored the dances.  Although Mitchell’s population in 1930 was only 2,058, more than 1,000 people would attend a dance held by a big-name band.  That Mitchell, which was hundreds of miles from a big city, could draw such nationally known entertainers and such large crowds to see and hear them attests to the popularity of Sandford Hall from the 1930s to the 1950s.

Located on a site adjacent to the County Fairgrounds track and stadium, Sandford Hall is a simple one-story wood frame building 148’ long and 80’ wide.  The arched roof covers a large open space with a 120’x50’ hardwood dance floor. Wooden, full-beam roof posts at the edge of the dance floor and the arched roof allow for a dance floor with no obstructions.  Shed extensions enclose seating and stage areas. The simple, highly functional design made the building suitable for a variety of events.

Plan your visit

Sandford Hall is located at 130625 County Road East, on the Scotts Bluff County Fairgrounds. The entry to the fairgrounds is at the intersection of 13th St. and 22nd Ave. in Mitchell, NE.

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