In the heart of downtown Portland, Oregon sits a venue that has stood the test of time with generation after generation of Portlanders enjoying music, dancing, and other large-scale events. The Crystal Ballroom, which is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, has a concealed engineering element that has helped cement the venue into the City of Portland’s and America’s history for over 100 years.

My first experience at the Crystal Ballroom

Wikipedia Creative Commons, author Ddab, International (CC BY-SA 4.0) no changes
Petty Theft - Wikipedia Creative Commons, author Ddab, International (CC BY-SA 4.0) no changes

I got to experience the ambiance of the iconic venue for the first time at the Portland Music Festival earlier this year. When you enter you'll be greeted with exquisite chandeliers and ornate moldings - it's an architectural masterpiece for sure, but what you won't see is the hidden engineering wonder that enhances the overall experience.

We arrived late to the festival and made our way through the crowd upstairs. The ballroom was packed, the music was cranking, and the floor was moving. I, not knowing the venue was built with a spring-loaded dance floor felt and saw the floor bouncing up and down to the beat of the jumping crowd. Honestly, I was nervous about being in the middle of it all. I kept imagining the floor bursting open and the crown tumbling into a pit of rubble. So, instead of making my way into the middle of the raging crowd, I remained on the side where the sensation wasn’t as strong. I enjoyed the show immensely but I’m certain I would’ve enjoyed it more had I known the floor was actually designed to spring up and down.

What is the purpose of the Crystal Ballroom’s Spring-Loaded Dance Floor?

The Crystal Ballroom, in Portland, Oregon, was built in 1913–14 and was originally named Cotillion Hall. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photo by Steve Morgan.

Built back in 1914, the spring-loaded dance floor, a.k.a a sprung floor, was designed to provide dancers with a cushioned and bouncy surface, creating a sensation of dancing on air. The floor has multiple layers which include the subflooring and springs (the crucial component), and is capped with hardwood for durability and a smooth dancing surface. Over the years, the floor has been meticulously maintained and upgraded to provide thousands and thousands of patrons with an experience they’ll never forget. So, if you ever attend a show at the Crystal Ballroom, don’t freak out if the floor moves up and down – it’s supposed to.

Wikipedia Creative Commons, author DdabInternational (CC BY-SA 4.0) no changes

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