Wild times at the Murray TrocaderoFeb 03, 2023 10:37AM ● By Shaun Delliskave
One of the few photos of the Trocadero. People stand in front of the State Street venue, viewing the aftermath of a car accident. (Photo courtesy of the Murray Museum)
As Murray City leaders push to refurbish the historic Murray Theater as a performance venue, a century ago, city leaders sought to close its notorious predecessor—the Trocadero. The Trocadero was opened in 1903 and was named after the famous French hall built to house the 1878 World’s Fair.
It is no coincidence that the Trocadero was established soon after the founding of Murray City. The city clamped down on dozens of saloons and the rowdy behavior that was wrecking the town.
Historian Korral Broschinsky wrote, “With the closure of the saloons, aside from church activities, dancing and movies became the focus for Murray entertainment during the first half of the twentieth century. The Trocadero (later called the Alcazar), an octagonal dance pavilion, built around 1900 and demolished before 1942, was the hot spot for Murray citizens for many years.”
In addition to dancing, the venue housed political rallies, boxing, wrestling matches and roller derbies. Built where the present-day Murray Post Office (4989 S. State St.), Arthur E. White and Arley F. Savage constructed the octagonal wooden building with an iron roof.
As a dance venue, the Trocadero had a reputable start. The media first mentions the building in the 1904 Deseret Evening News, stating, “a combination dance of all the (fraternal) lodges in Murray will be held in the Trocadero Hall on Jan. 3 to raise money to furnish the new Fraternal Hall.”
However, with the city clamping down on State Street drunkenness from surrounding saloons, the rowdies soon discovered the Trocadero.
“One of the better indicators of changing attitudes was the Trocadero Dance Hall. It was constantly in trouble with city officials, and its owners frequently changed during the 1910s,” Historian David Schirer wrote. “Murray’s youth continued to be of great concern to city officials during discussions of saloons caught selling liquor to minors, closure of the Trocadero Dance Hall for ‘lewd dancing,’ and the need to control ‘rowdy’ behavior at local baseball games during the 1910s.”
A boxing promotor took ownership of the Trocadero in the 1910s and found a way to soothe the city leaders. According to Schirer, the Trocadero owner hosted city functions to try to trump his troubles.
“The last owner during the decade was Con Gallagher, who also owned a saloon/pool hall in Murray and acted as chief of the Murray Volunteer Fire Department. His position as fire chief appears to have been the only point in his favor in convincing the city council to grant his application for a dance hall license in 1912. He was immediately called before the council to explain the ‘close and moonlight dancing’ reported at the Trocadero. In his defense, Gallagher claimed that he was forced to allow it. All the other dance halls in the valley allowed this type of dancing, and if he did not, the young people who frequented his hall would quit coming,” Schirer wrote.
The council was not impressed.
Gallagher was also Utah’s premier boxing promoter and brought in big-name fighters like Young Peter Jackson, who, during his career, squared off against the legendary Jack Johnson in a bout for the latter’s “World ‘Colored’ Heavyweight Title.” Jackson would return to the Trocadero to train boxers. Newspapers flocked to the site to cover Fireman Jim Flynn’s fights, and heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey would also hold court there when visiting his mother, who lived nearby.
Nonetheless, despite its notoriety, city leaders eventually prevailed against the Trocadero.
“After several discussions and citations, the Trocadero was closed for good, and dancing was transferred to one of the local churches where it would be adequately monitored,” Schirer wrote.
New owners reopened the Trocadero in the 1920s as the Alcazar, named after a Spanish castle. While the Alcazar seemingly had fewer scandals and appearances before the city council less often, the hall closed in 1942, eventually being demolished.
For as many events held at the Trocadero, not many photographs are known to exist of the place. Yet, ironically, its best-documented history remains in the records of testy city council minutes.