It was here that my parents were able to see Guy Lombardo, one of my Mom’s favorite band leaders. Though it was usually New Years Eve that America listened to him bring in the New Year during radio and television broadcasts. Founded in 1921 by John Verderbar, Verderbar purchased 5 acres (20,000 m2) along wooded Archer Ave Willow Springs, Illinois. He planned to build a beautiful weekend home. His son, however, wanted to build outdoor dance pavilion and he did which was extremely successful but destroyed by a fire too. Finally, the OHenry ballroom was built in 1931. The ballroom was supposedly named after the OhHenry candy bar, manufactured in Chicago by the Williamson Candy Company, who paid Verderbar for the naming rights. As Big Band popularity spread across the US in the 1940’s, the OHenry ballroom, also air conditioned, would support a weekly attendance of 10,000 dancers.
In 1955, as ballrooms across the country scaled down or closed, the Verderbars set out on a course to further expand their operations. A 20,000-foot (6,100 m) addition installed new kitchens, a restaurant and a private room for parties and banquets. In 1959, the entire Oh Henry complex was renamed Willowbrook Ballroom. The tastes were changing in music and few wanted ballroom dancing so contemporary musicians took over the stage at the Willowbrook. According to sources, musicians included The Crying Shames, The Association, The Buckinghams, Otis Day and the Knights and Martha Reeves to name a few.
The original owners sold the ballroom in 1997 to but continued on as a historic, legendary ballroom and banquet facility also constantly associated with the Resurrection Mary’s spirit who frequented the ballroom since the 1930’s. Many continued to celebrate their New Years Eve into the millenium at the ballroom with excellent food, party favors and balloons dropping and cascading throughout the ballroom floor at midnight.
The Willowbrook was was destroyed by a massive fire in 2016 and it the land is being used to build condominiums. Originally, a grant had been presented to restore the historic ballroom but condo’s won the bid.