A Glance at Lehi’s Dance Hall History

Julian Mercer | Guest Writer

Main Street Lehi in 1908. First West (looking westward). The large building in the center is the Lehi Opera House, where much of the town’s social activity occured from 1887 to 1962. Original photo from Lehi Banner

The Abbington Manor, an assisted living center for the elderly located on the northwest corner of 200 North and Center Street, is a beautiful building with a modern appearance, but behind the facade is an older building with an interesting heritage dating back to 1913.

On Halloween night of that year, Lehi citizens had a new place to dance, as the Smuin Dancing Academy held its grand opening. The building was huge for the day at forty feet wide and ninety-two feet long, and to make things even better for dancing, the building had a spring floor. Lehi residents flocked to the new dancing facility, as did people from Utah and Salt Lake counties because the interurban train depot was only a block away.

Later, when the new high school was built on the southeast corner of the intersection, it was built without a gym, so the Smuin family gave the school permission to use the dance hall for basketball games, gym classes, and other activities until the high school gym was built.

In the early days of Lehi, dancing was an important part of community life and recreation and Lehi had several bands including The Broadbent and Stoney Orchestra, The Kirkham Brothers, The Carter Family, The Seven Piece Smuin Brothers Orchestra, and The Bud Hutching’s Orchestra.

Lehi also had many dancing facilities such as The Smuin Dancing Academy, The Arcade, which was located on 500 West and State Street, The Southern Depot, Garff Hall (otherwise known as the Lehi Opera House), and a dance hall at Saratoga Resort. Due to large crowds, it was necessary for each facility to have a floor manager whose job was to hand out a numbered ticket to each man who came with a date to dance. After each dance, the manager would call out a new number so another group could have a turn.

Louis Garff, an ancestor of Ken Garff, was in the mercantile business and when he needed more room, he decided to build Garff Hall at 147 West Main, later to be known as the Lehi Opera House. He designated the upstairs for dancing, productions, and other activities, while the downstairs was used for business. The building on that location today is home to Pioneer Party, owned by Dale Ekins.

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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