The Mardi Gras Ballroom is an old and iconic building located in downtown Boise. Originally built as The Riverside Pavilion in 1927, this building features a Spanish mission architecture style, with arches, a flat roof, and concrete, stucco and adobe materials.
It was built in 1927 originally as an open-air pavilion where various events would be held just a little ways outside of the main city. It used a post and beam type support system and was built almost like a barn. Various events were held there, from dances to parties. Rumor has it that when a circus was in town, elephants from the circus were used to assist the building of the roof in the late 20s. It was used for many other events for the next 20 years, and grew to be very popular. There were vaudeville events there which were very popular and the time as well as other performers and performances.
Lydia and Orson Merrill, who simply liked the building for its large size, bought the building in 1958, and changed the name to the more festive “Mardi Gras Ballroom”. They continued it as an event center and ballroom. At one point it was even a skating rink, but that didn’t last long. Lydia was especially proud of the dance floor, which she says is “Hard rock maple wood over celotex”, which makes it one of the best dance floors if not the best dance floor in the city.
The building has been remodeled and altered several times throughout its history, especially after one particular time in the 70s, when the insulation caught on fire, searing the wood on the ceiling and causing massive damage. Fortunately though, according to Lydia and Orson’s son Tim, the firefighters didn’t hose the fire and thus actually saved the building from being completely destroyed. After that, various remodels were done, such as lowering the ceiling to cover up the charred wood and adding things like the bar area.
The building always has seen plenty of activity. It has featured a wide number of performers and bands, such as REM, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, and even the Boise High Jazz Band. Now it continues as an event center, especially for parties for holidays like New Year’s and Saint Patrick’s Day, Quinceaneras, dinners, christenings, weddings, and other types of parties and events.