“Let the good times roll” is the focus of the spirits who still stay!
DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY
The Natatorium, commonly known from its beginning as “The Nat,” was originally built to house an open air community swimming pool, (36’x101′), when it opened in July of 1922. It was designed by a well-known Amarillo architect, Guy Carlander, and was a very popular place to escape the Pan Handle heat! In fact, it was covered in 1923 so the pool could be used all year around.
However, 4 years later in 1926, The Natatorium was bought by J. D. Tucker who drained the pool, built sub-flooring and laid down 10,000 square feet of maple flooring on top of the pool, creating a fantastic dance floor and stage for Tucker’s new dance palace/night club. The interior was decorated by Beaux Arts Studio. A second floor was added and part of it was used at some point as gambling rooms, sometime during the building’s history. Bands, such a Ell Hoover and his Orchestra, were hired to play dance music for people who had paid 5 cents a ticket, for each dance.
Throughout its history, The Nat was also rented out for special events, parties, fundraisers and banquets, which provided additional income as well.
During the Depression years, an Amarillo businessman, Harry Badger, had some new ideas on improving The Nat. Harry bought the building, and renamed it, The Nat Dine and Dance Palace. He added the fortress architecture to the front in 1935, and built a unique entrance to the dance hall area, which not only opened up easy access for the public from route 66, but was also led to the newly created dining area, The Nat Cafe.
He greatly added to the The Nat’s commercial value, attracting more people who were looking for a place to have a fine dinner and entertainment as well. Many quality orchestras under the Music Corporation of America played here, much to the pleasure of the public. Orchestras such as the Dorsey Brothers, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Guy Lombardo offered their musical performances for dance floor activity and dinner music! At its height of popularity, The Nat had 52 employees working there.
In the 1940s, Dr. William Maddox bought The Nat, and continued to offer quality music. Servicemen based at the Amarillo Air Force Base enjoyed hanging out here, where many met their future wives.
During the 1950s, early rock in rollers such as Little Richard, Roy Orbison, The Crickets and Buddy Holly entertained their fans.
In the 1960s, The Nat closed as a public dance hall, though it was still used for occasional concerts, and of course for community events.
In 1994, The Nat was placed in the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1995 it was declared a Texas Historical Landmark. Money became available to carefully renovate this place of happy memories.
The second floor became an antique mall for awhile and The Nat Cafe space became a used book shop, which Tom and I visited. The old ballroom still hosts various musical bands and groups on occasion, such as the Dixie Chicks, and people in the community still use the building for special events.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
From its very beginning, The Nat has been a place of very happy memories for many people throughout the years, with fine food, dancing, good times and memorable events.
It is no wonder that some spirits linger behind, reliving their wonderful times here, not quite ready to go to the other side, a familiar scenario found in other stories found on this web site (The National Pastime Theatre, Rialto Theatre, Saint James Hotel, and Capitol Theatre, to name just a few).
Spirits Enjoying Music
Entities still enjoy listening and dancing to the music.
When the occasional concert is held here, ghostly couples have been spotted gliding around the dance floor.
Entities still enjoy performing here.
During a 1996 paranormal investigation by the Texas Panhandle Investigation group, a recording of a woman singing with a drum solo in the background was picked up with EVP equipment. The cameras kept turning off by themselves as it seems the entities enjoy their privacy. Despite efforts to paint over the outside wall advertisement which touts “Monty McGee and His Orchestra”, it keeps bleeding through the new paint.
Second Floor Spectral Gaming
Spirits are still enjoying themselves at the gambling tables.
Upon entering the second floor rooms, the living have felt cold spots.
Furniture has been known to be rearranged during the evening and noticed by the living the next morning.
The entity of a woman, dressed in a 1930s era dress, with a wine stain on the front was seen walking around the rooms in a jovial mood, happy to be there.
Spirits Fighting Change
Despite efforts to paint over the outside wall advertisement which touts “Monty McGee and His Orchestra”, it keeps bleeding through the new paint.
- Pictures © Tom Carr
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr