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Music

Longhorn Ballroom Listed on National Register of Historic Places

Aaah-haaa!
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Photo by Jessica Waffles

Just a few days ago, we published this appreciation of the Longhorn Ballroom, written by Bill Sanderson. So there isn’t much more to say on our end about the great venue. We’re huge fans. And now comes the welcome news that the joint has earned a spot on the National Register. The full release:

In 2020, Preservation Dallas named the Longhorn Ballroom one of the most endangered historic places in Dallas. Unprotected with any historical status, anyone who purchased the property could demolish the incredible piece of Texas musical history. 

The designation process started 18 months ago when musical and historical steward Edwin Cabaniss and his family purchased the building with plans of an extensive restoration and a vision to bring the iconic dance hall back to its former glory. On February 1, 2024, the Longhorn Ballroom, originally known as Bob Wills Ranch House, was recognized with an official listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  

The designation could not have come at a more perfect moment, as the Longhorn hosted Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, under the direction of Jason Roberts just two days later. The dancers slowed and the fiddles paused to listen, as Cabaniss made the announcement from the legendary stage. It was especially significant to the crowd that included representatives from the Bob Wills Foundation, The Texas Dance Hall Preservation, the Texas Music Office as well as three generations of the Wills family.

Cabaniss said, “Preservation has always been one of the primary ethos of our company. The goal was to not only highlight the venue’s historical contributions to the greater American musical canon, but to reestablish the Longhorn Ballroom as a cultural destination for present and future generations of artists and patrons.”

The ballroom was restored under the guidance of Robert L. Meckfessel of DSGN Associates. “As we worked with Edwin and the rest of the team,” Meckfessel said, “there were two primary goals—making sure that the Longhorn Ballroom would provide a modern, state-of-the-art performance experience and ensure that any modifications to achieve that maintained the historic integrity of its incredible music and cultural heritage. Inclusion on the National Register is the highest affirmation that this was achieved.” 

Texas Dance Hall Preservation co-founder, Steph McDougal prepared the National Register nomination, with assistance from Dallas architect Marcel Quimby and Texas Historical Commission National Register coordinator Gregory Smith. “The Longhorn Ballroom is one of Texas’ most iconic dance halls,” says McDougal. Of course, it’s famous for its association with Western Swing legend Bob Wills and the notorious Sex Pistols tour in 1978. But just as importantly, throughout its history the Longhorn has presented a diverse range of musicians and artists in many genres, and it’s still doing that today. We could not be more pleased to have been involved in this project—yet another preservation home run by Edwin Cabaniss and his team.“

Adding to the historical mystique of the ballroom is the Cabaniss Collection that consists of memorabilia from the artists that have played the room over the past 74 years. The original museum-style display cases are built into the walls of the Longhorn for show patrons to peruse. These cases include everything from Bob Wills show saddle to James Brown’s robe; and an extraordinary collection of guitars from artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Waylon Jennings, Tammy Wynette, and BB King and many, other items, and photographs from the venue’s early days—all lovingly collected and meticulously displayed.

Cabaniss went on to say, “The Cabaniss family is acutely aware that we are simply stewards of this legendary music venue. The National Register designation will help protect the Longhorn Ballroom for another 75 years.”

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Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…

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