Stantec reaches important milestone in
documenting, protecting historic Texas dance halls
The firm is helping preservation group defend buildings against coastal storms
HOUSTON, TX (May 29, 2023) TSX, NYSE:STN
Stantec, a global leader in sustainable design and engineering, is helping Texas preserve its “two-step” dancing heritage in the face of hurricanes and climate change. Stantec architectural historians have worked with nonprofit Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc. (TDHP) to document dance halls in over 40 southeastern Texas counties impacted by recent hurricanes.
Stantec recently hit a milestone, having documented 70 dance halls to complete the survey effort. The next phase of the project will involve research and resiliency planning to help strengthen these historic sites against the impacts of future storms.
With many dating to the 1800s, Texas dance halls have long served as multipurpose cultural centers in communities for entertainment, town meetings, and even emergency shelters. Some halls have specific connections to the Hispanic, Czech, or German communities and distinct music and dance styles associated with those groups.
Some of America’s most famous musicians have performed in them, including Willie Nelson, Charlie Pride, and Merle Haggard. Over the past 100 years, they’ve also served as roller skating rinks, professional wrestling venues, and competitive shooting clubs. Their exterior designs can range from simple rectangles to 12-sided “round” shapes. In some cases, they are the last architectural remnants of once-thriving rural communities.
After Hurricane Harvey, TDHP received a grant from the National Park Service to help preserve dance halls and prepare for the next natural disaster.
“We’re thrilled with the progress Stantec is making in documenting these historic dance halls,” said Bethany Wolf, TDHP executive director. “Generations of Texans have danced, fallen in love, and celebrated their most important milestones in dance halls. They are part of the social fabric of our communities.”
Since the project began in 2020, Stantec historians have been photographing exteriors and interiors, making note of foundations, window types, ceilings, floors, and roofs. As part of the documentation process, they interviewed dance hall representatives to document repairs and past storm impacts. The comprehensive surveys were designed to aid in evaluating historic significance and climate-change vulnerabilities.
Emily Reed, senior architectural historian and project manager, said the project aligns with Stantec’s focus on coastal resilience and protecting communities from rising seas, storms, and other climate-change impacts. Stantec’s efforts can help communities understand what resources are available to them.
Reed noted that some Texas dance halls may qualify for historic designations, special grants, or tax breaks. Insurance coverage can also be addressed with the documentation.
“It’s important that we equip dance hall owners with the resources they need to prepare for the next disaster,” she said. “Many halls find out only after a hurricane, flood, or fire that they don’t have enough insurance to rebuild. Our documentation can be used to understand how to protect these historic buildings for the next generation.”
About Texas Dance Hall Preservation
Founded in 2007, Texas Dance Hall Preservation’s mission is to celebrate Texas dance halls by helping them serve and strengthen their communities. TDHP provides grant assistance, technical consulting, and other services to dance hall owners. The organization received the 2022 Texas Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation for its COVID-19 Relief Fund, which distributed more than $260,000 to dance halls to help with building insurance and utilities while they were forced to close during the 2020 pandemic. Learn more at texasdancehall.org.
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