Salt Lake City has always been the hub for live entertainment and nightlife for the state of Utah and surrounding states. With the state’s flagship university, young population, and abundance of downtown venues, it’s no wonder that entertainment acts gravitate to Salt Lake City. According to The Salt Lake Tribune‘s 2015 article “Whatever happened to … The Terrace Ballroom?,” the venue has been known by many names: Coconut Grove, Rainbow Ballroom, Rainbow Randevu, Danceland, and finally the Terrace Ballroom. The downtown venue located on 500 South and Main Street represented an entertainment icon for generations. The building, a quarter of a million dollar project originally built by the Covey-Ballard Motor Company in 1922, was later transformed in 1931 into the “largest ballroom in the country” spanning across half a city block. Known by its original name Coconut Grove, the venue was the prominent dance and entertainment hall during the years of the Great Depression.
The concert venue was known for hosting a large number of top-tier performers. In 1941, Jimmie Lunceford, the famed saxophone player and bandleader, blessed Salt Lake City with his performance at the great hall. The venue was known as Rainbow Randevu at the time of his performance. According to a Salt Lake Tribune article from 1941, “Jimmie Lunceford and his orchestra will make an appearance for three nights only at Jerry Jones’ Rainbow Randevu Thursday Friday and Saturday. Collectively and individually this organization is a versatile and dynamic musical group.”
The hall has seen significant changes throughout its time in Salt Lake City, from a multitude of name changes, to renovations, and even damaging fires. Billboard reported on November 20, 1948, “Jerry Jones, owner of Rainbow Randevu, Salt Lake City dancery, which was destroyed by a $175,000 fire May 22, this week took a 10-year lease, involving more than $250,000, on Coconut Grove Ballroom in the same city. Jones intends to spend $100,000 in remodeling the room.”
The venue hosted a number of famed acts throughout its time, but it was no stranger to local artists as well. The News-Examiner, the prominent news source of Montpelier, Idaho, reported on October 24, 1957, that “Wayne Hoff, a former Montpelier resident, is appearing with the famed Jones Boys’ quartet at the Rainbow Randevu in Salt Lake City Friday and Saturday. Hoff produced, wrote and directed both radio and television shows before going to Los Angeles in 1952 to sing with bands there prior to joining the Jones Boys, recognized as one of the nation’s top vocal groups. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Herman Hoff.”
The venue, known as The Terrace at this time, helped lead Salt Lake City into the modern mindset of equality. Before that time, many businesses and hotels still supported segregation. (Salt Lake City Television) Pushing boundaries by allowing admittance by all helped hoist the hall into fond memories from a diverse culture. According to historian Ronald G. Coleman, “By the late 1940s, Robert Freed had succeeded in fully opening Lagoon to Blacks; and when his company acquired the Rainbow Gardens (Terrace), the same policy was adopted.”
The venue failed to remain in its golden era forever. After its closing in the 1980s, the abandoned building sat unoccupied for some time before the decision to demolish it came from the city. According to a 1987 Deseret News article, “Even in the death throes, Salt Lake’s Terrace Ballroom put on a good show on Wednesday afternoon. The memory-rich building on Main Street between Fourth and Fifth South was already half demolished. And at 5:30 p.m., fire added another element to its demise. The fire sent clouds of smoke through the downtown area and caused firefighters considerable concern as it danced inside the rubble. Although fire officials are happy to have one less fire hazard to worry about, the passing of the Terrace is not without a bit of melancholy.”
It is important to see the history of one’s community and the impact it may have had on the culture in that community. Although The Terrace isn’t around today, it was a historical icon and showcased the abundance of nightlife in Salt Lake City. The venue remains in Salt Lake City as a parking lot, but its rich history is retained through headlines in the newspapers and memories of attendees.
Cristian Garcia graduated from the University of Utah with a BS in Communication in Fall 2018.
“Local Items,” News-Examiner, October 24, 1957, 12.
“Salt Lake Dancery to Jones on Lease,” Billboard, November 20, 1948, 41.
Advertisement for Rainbow Randevu, Utah Chronicle, October 29, 1942, 5.
Advertisement for Rainbow Randevu, Utah Chronicle, November 5, 1942, 3.
“Lunceford Band Will Play at Local Club,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 14, 1941, 8.
Pierce, Scott D. and Twila Van Leer. “Flames Become Last Dancers at the Terrace,” Deseret News, August 6, 1987, B1.
“Covey-Ballard Motor Company Erecting $250,000 Building on Fifth South,” Deseret News, June 24, 1922, 3.
Ronald G. Coleman, “Blacks in Utah History,” Utah History to Go.
Braden [no last name,] “The Terrace,” Lagoon History Project.
Christopher, Smart. “Whatever Happened to … The Terrace Ballroom?” Salt Lake Tribune, March 12, 2015.
Salt Lake City Television, “Salt Lake City History Minute – Segregation,” YouTube, February 16, 2016.