Aragon Ballroom

Entertainment & Arts

North America, United States, Chicago

The Aragon Ballroom is the name of a historic ballroom in Chicago, Illinois. Located on West Lawrence Avenue approximately five miles (8 km) north of downtown in the Uptown neighborhood, it was built in 1926 and designed in the Moorish architectural style with the interior resembling a Spanish village and named for a province of Spain, the Aragon was extravagantly appointed. The hall was an immediate success, and remained a popular Chicago attraction through the 1940s. The Aragon's proximity to the Chicago 'L' (elevated railway) helped people flock to the hall, and crowds often exceeded 18,000 guests over the six open nights each week. Powerhouse radio station WGN broadcast an hour-long program from the hall each night to radio audiences throughout the Midwestern United States and Canada. Legend has it that the secret tunnels under the nearby Green Mill bar, a Prohibition-era hangout of Al Capone, lead to the Aragon's basement. A fire at an adjacent cocktail lounge in 1958 forced the Aragon to close for several months. After the reopening, crowds declined significantly. Regular dancing ended in 1964. A succession of new owners used the Aragon as a roller skating rink, a boxing venue, and a discothèque, (the Cheetah, a spin-off of the New York disco) among other uses, plus occasional efforts to revive it as a traditional ballroom. The Aragon hosted nearly all of the top names of the big band era. During the 1970s, the Aragon was home to so-called "monster rock" shows, which were marathons of rock and roll acts often lasting six hours or more. The shows gained a reputation for attracting a tough crowd, leading to the nickname "the Aragon Brawlroom". In 1973, Latin promoters Willy Miranda and Jose Palomar became owners of the Aragon. The two men had promoted Hispanic dances and concerts in Chicago for years, and moved their productions to the Aragon with the purchase. They soon teamed up with rock promoters Arny Granat and Jerry Mickelson, who used the hall for their rock concerts. In the late 1990s, the Aragon was bought by Luis Rossi (previous owner of La Raza Newspaper), Ivan Fernandez, and Mercedes Fernandez. Today, under the name Aragon Entertainment Center, the hall hosts a variety of Spanish language and Vietnamese language shows as well as English language rock concerts. The occasional boxing events are still held as well. During a performance on October 17, 2009, sludge metal band Mastodon recorded a live album and concert DVD at the venue. Live at the Aragon was released on March 15, 2011.