The Palais Royale Ballroom at The Morris Performing Arts Center was designed by J. S. Aroner of Chicago and opened February, 1922. Mr. Aroner was the architect for all of the Palace Theatres in the US, but the Palais Royale and the Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA, are the only two remaining with renovated/ restored theater-ballroom combinations. Opening just a year after the Center's theater early in the 1920’s, the ballroom was the place to go for dancing every night of the week, hosting such notables as Duke Ellington, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, Cab Calloway, Kay Kyer, Ozzie Nelson, Johnny Long, Sammy Kaye, Freddy Martin, Woody Herman, Count Basie, the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Harry James, to mention just a few. Countless dances, receptions, and banquets were held at the ballroom from the early 20’s through the 30’s, 40’s & 50’s making the Palais Royale a sentimental favorite for generations of South Bend residents.
During the World War II period, the Palais became a U.S. Servicemen's Center for returning GI’s, and it was never quite the same once the War ended. Ballroom dancing was on the downside, and the theater house was on the upswing. Since that time, the Palais has played home to roller-blade hockey, golden glove boxing, wrestling, and even a 12-lane bowling alley with an occasional dance thrown in for good measure. In the early 1960’s, the ballroom was converted into a teenage discotheque, complete with 141 gallons of black paint on the walls and decorative ceiling and picnic tables used on the main level with peanut shells strewn on the floor. The Musicians' Balcony was filled with pool tables.
Restoration of this elegant facility began on December 27, 2001. This renovation/restoration totalled $6.9 million in public-private funding, but enabled the doors of the Palais to open on New Year’s Eve, 2002, for a Gala Grand Opening.
While the decorative elements have been restored with historic accuracy, a new full-service kitchen, restrooms and mechanical systems have been added, making the Palais a popular venue for a variety of events. A platform/stage has been restored where the bandstand once stood and the oak floor has been completely replaced – although it continues the original concept of a “floating” dance floor (no walls are physically connected to the floor). The grand terrazzo staircase on Colfax Avenue has been beautifully restored, providing a dramatic entry in the 8,800 square foot ballroom.
The Palais Royale welcomes private, public, and corporate functions: fundraisers, employee appreciation events, holiday parties, wedding receptions, and fashion shows. Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, graduation activities, training seminars, class reunions and dances are but a few more events filling the calendar. The full-service kitchen and award-winning chef provide delicious cuisine and a complete bar service is also available on site.
The Morris Performing Arts Center is a gem on the waterfront of the St. Joseph River in South Bend, Indiana, and the Palais Royale is a part of this unique and amazing venue. The Palais Royale Ballroom has reclaimed its crown for beauty, ambience, sentiment, and historical accuracy, becoming South Bend's premier event facility.