Key Peninsula community halls served important KP function

Colleen Slater Editors note: This is part one of a two-part series. You can read part two here. As the local communities developed, people wanted a place for meetings and social gatherings. Community halls were built to serve many functions. Vaughn The Vaughn Library Hall, at the juncture of Van Slyke and Hall roads, began when Henry S. Coblentz gave the young men of the neighborhood permission to build a dance floor for the July 4 celebration in 1889. They called it “The Bowery” after decorating it with branches and ribbon bows. In 1893, walls and a roof were added to make a community center. A corner room, with its own entrance from the porch, was designated the library and housed books the ladies of The Library Association had gathered over the years. This group met only on nights of the full moon so the women could walk safely home after dark, although some of their menfolk gathered in the tower to play cards. The building was home to a church and Sunday school, with the boys’ class in the bell tower. The Episcopalian Vaughn Church was built in 1898, but Presbyterians continued to meet in the hall until the Rev. Applegate invited them to use his beautiful building, too, in 1908. High school plays and graduations took place in the hall until the gymnasium was built in 1937. The Ladies Aid Guild met to tie quilts made to raise funds for a church bell. Other organizations using the hall included Good Roads Club, Vaughn Garden Club and Amaranth. In the depression years, Elsie Olson was in charge of a government program where neighbors came to make mattresses for their families from surplus cotton batting and materials. Films were shown at the hall as early as 1930 and into the 1940s. Harm and Helen Van Slyke paid 15 cents each to see “the latest production from Hollywood.” During World War II, women gathered to make and roll bandages and other items needed. After the war, they continued to meet to make quilts for low-income families. Health clinics were held, too. The building was sold for $500 in 1958 and is now a private residence. The money was used for a library in the newly designated Key Peninsula Civic Center. Home Home lays claim to three halls. Nightly meetings dealing with intellectual and cultural ideas were hosted at Liberty Hall, constructed in 1903. A debating society; a band; and classes in drawing, Esperanto, yoga, German, flower culture and spiritualism took place there. The two-story building was 60 by 30 feet. At 25 feet high, it had an upper floor used for  plays, dances, school pageants, social events, lectures and discussions. Two school rooms and The Demonstrator print shop occupied the lower floor. Classes met there until a school was built at 6th and D. Women speakers were popular there. It was, with just cause, called the most indispensable institution of the Home colony. Condemned in 1916, the building was replaced with Home Hall, also called Peninsula Social Hall, set on stilts on the waterfront. A pecan dance floor graced this building, which was taken down in 1970. Phil Halperin built Harmony Hall for dances in 1923. No alcohol was allowed. A flyer claimed dancing every Saturday night as well as Sundays and holidays. Sylvia Retherford wrote that dinners were served for the visiting team after every home baseball game, then on to the dance. Glencove In April 1906, Louise Petersen and Fred Nelson were in charge of collecting money and overseeing construction of a community hall on land donated by the Petersen family in Glencove. Ulysses Oles pledged the first money, $20. Built at the head of the bay, the one-story building consisted of a large room with a stage, a smaller meeting room and a kitchen heated with a wood stove. Floyd Oles, in his book on Glencove, recalled signs posted that said, “Come one, come all, come great and small, down to the dance at Glencove Hall.” Before the event, volunteers decorated with Japanese lanterns and bunting and filled the coal oil lamps. Dances, dinners, school programs, Sunday school classes and Upper Sound Grange meetings were held there. A library was included, too. Joyce Niemann recalls being at a Halloween dance when her uncle, Jim O’Hara, came in to announce the arrival of his new daughter. In 1957, the Glencove Hall Association met and discussed demolishing the building and selling the property. A small marina was then built near the water on that property. A building, purported to be the original hall much remodeled and moved back, still exists on the site.
Want to know more? For information on these halls or to provide additional information, visit the KP Historical Society museum in Vaughn, call 888-3246 or write Sources for this article include “Along the Waterfront,” “Early Days of the Key Peninsula,” “Glencove” and various stories from the Key Peninsula Historical Society museum.[/box]