Too expensive to renovate, the Thelma Boltin Center to be demolished and replaced

The Thelma Boltin Center started life in 1942 as a USO Center for US service men and women. It was designed as a classic Swing Era dance hall.

The Thelma A. Boltin Center, Gainesville’s 80-year-old community dance facility, has a place in the heart of every contra dancer who has ever danced there. A classic Swing Era dance hall, it had been home to the Gainesville Oldtime Dance Society (G.O.D.S.) ever since its founding in 1988.

The Thelma A. Boltin Center is also “no longer safe or functional” according to Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe.

Built in 1942 as a USO club catering to servicemen and women, the City post-war converted the building on Northeast 2nd Avenue into a multipurpose facility.

In 2019, the city earmarked $2 million to renovate the center. But that redesign project was put on hold in December 2020 when a structural failure was found in the roof of the Center’s main auditorium. The City is currently paying a contractor $5,000 a month to keep the roof shored so it doesn’t collapse.

Hollow block walls, an undersized foundation, and timbers that shrank and cracked in the heat of the roof, made the structure difficult and expensive to renovate. Delays on replacing the facility’s roof and years of termite damage have also taken a toll on the center.

At its meeting of 14 April, the Gainesville City Commission voted unanimously to tear down the whole building and replace it with one that serves similar needs in the community. Replacing the facility is expected to cost around $3 million.

For more details on this story, see “Planned renovation of Boltin Center crumbles”.

Thelma Boltin Center to be demolished

Patrick Harrigan

An avid contra dancer, Patrick Harrigan is also a photographer, editor, and website publisher.