Dancing on water and ice

Published 2:08 pm Thursday, January 19, 2017

Photos Courtesy Freeborn County Historical Museum

Decades before a place called a casino evolved south of the state line in Iowa, Albert Lea had a very popular dance pavilion with the same name.

From 1910 to about 1957, what was once called Casino Ballroom was a distinct place. The unusual building was both on land and out over water. At least a third of the dance pavilion and social center structure extended out into Fountain Lake like a dock based on log pilings.

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John E. Murtaugh was the owner of the business, which also specialized in boat and canoe rentals during the warmer months of the year. He also gained local fame for his record-keeping of Fountain Lake ice-out dates from 1912 to 1969. Since that time, this activity (third oldest in the state) has been continued by nearby barbers Bill and Mark Malepsy.

Dances featuring area old-time (mostly polkas) and new-time (mostly modern) bands were held weekly. On other evenings, dancing was based on recorded music evolving from a jukebox.