Friday, February 27, 2015
Cobblestone Ballroom Storm Lake, Iowa
Laura and Willard Lawrence, along with her brother Jake Figi formed a partnership in December of 1928 to operate a bathhouse and store on the shores of Storm Lake. There wasn’t much for the young people of the area to do in those days so the little store soon became the favorite gathering place for young couples. It was this situation that prompted the partners to build the first Cobblestone Inn. On New Year’s Eve of 1929 the first dance was held in the small hall that accommodated 50 couples. From those humble beginnings the famous Cobblestone Ballroom was born. It could hold upwards of 1500 people for dining and dancing. After Willard’s untimely death in 1936, Laura continued the partnership with Jake. A fire in 1945 completely destroyed everything but the main ballroom. The partners built a new main dining room with several private banquet rooms and a modern kitchen able to handle banquets of 1000 or more. Two years later, Laura’s three sons bought out Figi’s half of the business and joined their mother in operating what became one of the finest dining and dancing spots in the Midwest. They employed 39 people plus extras for special events. During the “Big Band Era” many nationally known bands appeared at the Cobblestone such as: Duke Ellington, Lawrence Welk, Tommy & Jimmy Dorsey, Jan Garber and Big Tiny Little. Laura Lawrence retired from active participation in the business in 1957, turning it over fully to Orville (Shorty) and Willard Junior (J.R. or “Junior”). They became the proprietors just in time for the rock and roll era to arrive. For the Cobblestone, that happened on Sept. 21, 1958 with CYO dances that started with records and turned into regular Sunday night Teen Hops with regional and national bands. That continued until the early 1980s. The ballroom’s datebooks reflect appearances by Myron Lee & the Caddies, Johnny & the Hurricanes, Bobby Vee, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, the Rhythm Aces, the Charades, the Fabulous Flippers, Spider and the Crabs, Dee Jay & the Runaways, The Senders, Red Dogs, Baby and the Rumbles among countless others. J.R. passed away in 1976 and his wife Geraldine (Jerry) took over his duties in the family business. Shorty died on 1987. The Cobblestone closed in November of 1986. The structure still stands and the city of Storm Lake has discussed preserving and possibly restoring the landmark.