Paradise Ballroom


120 North Pulaski Road
Opened 1916

Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, the center of social dancing on Chicago far west side was Guyon’s Paradise Ballroom on the west side of Crawford Avenue about midway between Madison Street and the Lake Street elevated.

Opened in 1916, the Paradise was owned and operated by J. Louis Guyon, who had been promoting dances in Chicago since 1904. Guyon opened his first ballroom—the Dreamland—earlier in 1914 at the corner of VanBuren and Paulina Streets on the city’s near west side.

The Paradise had the reputation as being Chicago’s most conservatively run ballroom. Guyon shared the concerns of many of the city’s leading social reformers and worried that “jazzier” dance music encouraged improper behavior among the youth who visited certain, less well-regulated dance halls. Determined that his ballroom not become place of ill-repute, Guyon forbade any music and dancing which he considered too fast-tempoed or physically charged. During the 1910s and 1920s, patrons were allowed to dance waltzes and two-steps, but not the fox trot or the Charleston. Nevertheless, many Chicagoans appreciated the conservative dance styles at the Paradise, as well as the wonderful opportunity to socialize with other young and often unattached West Siders.

Guyon, whose extensive investments in the neighborhood included a hotel and several commercial properties, made a fortune off the Paradise. Situated close to inexpensive forms of public transportation, the ballroom was within easy reach of thousands of young Chicagoans who lived in the West Side’s many rooming houses and apartment buildings. Guyon’s huge profits came not through high admission prices, but rather through volume. Said to be the largest dance hall ever built in Chicago, the Paradise’s dance floor easily accommodated over 4,000 dancers at a time.

A massive five-alarm fire on the night of 9 September 1972 completely destroyed the ballroom and three adjacent apartment buildings.


Internet Resources
Photograph: Paradise Ballroom [Theatre Historical Society of America]
Photograph: Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Guyon, dancing teachers, 1910 [Library of Congress]
Photograph: Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Guyon, dancing teachers, 1910 [Library of Congress]
Photograph: Chicago Daily News Cooking School crowd standing outside Guyons Paradise Dance Hall, 1926 [Library of Congress]
Photograph: Chicago Daily News Cooking School crowd standing outside Guyons Paradise Dance Hall, 1926 [Library of Congress]
Photograph: Chicago Daily News Cooking School crowd standing outside Guyons Paradise Dance Hall, 1926 [Library of Congress]


Sources: Chicago Daily Tribune, 10 Sep 1972, 3.

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