Brown Derby Ballroom opens in Waterloo - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Brown Derby Ballroom opens in Waterloo


In downtown Waterloo, the Brown Derby Ballroom opened its doors Tuesday night, for the first time in years.

Chuck Orr lives with his wife in the same historic building as the ballroom. They share an interest in history.

She ran an antique shop for many years. He, on the other hand –

"I got to buy the antiques," Orr said.

They held on to that love of the past when they moved to downtown Waterloo in the mid 90s. Orr said the area has come a long way since then. He’s been a key player in a part of that, too – as new ballroom falls, quite literally, close to home.

"The top of the ballroom is right behind,” Orr said, pointing at the wall of his apartment. “And the top of the ballroom is about three feet below the ceiling."

According to Orr, the building has a storied history. Previously, it was an Elk's Club, in addition to a speakeasy. Now, it's open again, with flashy new signage out front.

Built over 100 years ago, the renovations have preserved or recreated much of the historic design. It’s a tribute to a better time, said Orr.

"In those days, you could get a t-bone steak for about a dollar and a quarter,” he said. “I miss those days, you bet."

Three years ago, Orr sold the building to JSA president Jim Walsh, who also played a major roll in this development.

"One of our goals is to provide venues and opportunities for people to enjoy our downtown,” Walsh said.

In the end though, Orr said he hopes residents see this new ballroom as a sign of better things to come

"Downtown is a safe place,” he said. “It's a good place to do business and a good place to start a business."

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