Christina H. Wilson

CRYSTAL SPRINGS DANCE PAVILION. The Crystal Springs Dance Pavilion was located in Fort Worth, and some have credited the honky-tonk as the birthplace of western swing. With the help of such performers as Bob Wills and Milton Brown, the dance hall at 5653 White Settlement Road became one of the most popular night spots in the area for dancing, drinking, and most importantly, listening to a new music genre.

The pavilion got its start, however, many years before Brown rocketed it to fame. It opened in March 1916 under the proprietorship of "Papa" Sam Cunningham and continued to remain under family control until fire consumed it in December 1966. It was named for springs at the site. Initially, the dance pavilion was set up in a discarded building from nearby Camp Bowie. Among others, World War I doughboys and their ladies came to swim in the springs and hear music. The music venue grew and in 1925 moved into a new building constructed on the premises. This structure had a capacity of about 1,000 persons and could accommodate approximately 800 on its dance floor.

By 1930, people at the Crystal Springs Dance Pavilion could hear Milton Brown singing popular tunes of the day. After he formed his own band, the Musical Brownies, they became featured performers there. People walked, drove, and even took the Crystal Springs shuttle bus from downtown Fort Worth to hear Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies play a new kind of dance music called hillbilly string music or cowboy jazz. Reportedly, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow also came to the pavilion. In addition to Brown's famous group, the hall had a modestly successful house band called the Crystal Spring Ramblers. Even though this western swing band had little success on the music charts, it continued to be a live favorite at the dance hall.

By the mid-1930s, Fort Worth was a hub for western swing music, and Crystal Springs was at the center. Brown died on April 18, 1936, but even without its headliner the pavilion continued to prosper as a country music venue until the 1960s. By the early 1960s Jimmy Capps and the Country Boys played at the hall. At that time the establishment was leased by Edna Amlotte, who closed the club for a time until it was later leased by Ray Chaney. In December 1966 fire completely destroyed the structure.


Fort Worth Press, January 9, 1956. Fort Worth Star–Telegram, April 20, 1997; September 25, 2002. Geronimo Treviño III, Dance Halls and Last Calls: The History of Texas Country Music (Plano, Texas: Republic of Texas Press, 2002).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Christina H. Wilson, "CRYSTAL SPRINGS DANCE PAVILION," accessed February 28, 2020,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on October 2, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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