The Riverside Ballroom located at Newfarm in Qld was built for the Naval Officers of the USA as an R&R Club following the Coral Sea Battle May 1942, the Midway Island conflict in June and eventually Japan. Hence its proximity to the river.
At the peak of the 1944 war, there were over 6000 US troops stationed in Brisbane.
The site had previously been a Council dump until the US 7th fleet made it home. Ordered to build an officers mess, they took possession of the building in 1943..
The land was flood prone, so required backfill, the army installed a mess, projector room, ballroom and Officers club which saw the 2-acre property become a Brisbane wartime showpiece of significant value.
Along with a public appeal and the regular dances, the building was paid for in 1953.
The buildings’ design being for Recreation saw it as a great fit, as it was turned over to the community in 1946 when US troops left our shores.
The American soldiers donated the building to the Limbless Soldiers Association of Queensland. This later (1978), became the Returned Soldiers League Headquarters. The land and building is on lease from the Brisbane City Council.
The building was open to the community without much fanfare due to community post-war expectations.
The Riverside is arguably the “last” of the Brisbane ballrooms that enjoyed regular significant attendance by the dance fraternity.
Jim Bourkes dance ensemble being the flavour of the time saw many years of Balls and dance events with suitable 50/50 music.
If you have recent recollections of the Ballroom whilst it was still used for the Dance community (circa late 80s at which time Riverside ballroom was leased to an events manager who preferred to hire the building out to weddings, now known as Riverside Receptions and the like thus ending the dancers last venue of note) you will no doubt recall the board and dances with this ever reliable and most popular dance band.
With the emergence of the dance fraternity, suitable venues were well patronised:
Popular Queensland Dance Venues
Like so many treasures, as time goes by, photos fade as do memories, so whatever treasures you have, from whatever era, in whatever condition, please don’t let them be lost. You are the story of Australian Dance History.