CROWSNEST PASS POLISH HALL
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Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Crowsnest Pass Polish Hall is a single-storey building situated on two lots in the community of Coleman in the Crowsnest Pass. Built in 1927, the hall is a brick building covered in stucco and features a stepped parapet with the year of construction set in relief, brick pilasters, lintels, and sills, and a projecting entrance vestibule.
The heritage value of the Crowsnest Pass Polish Hall lies in its association with the establishment of cultural associations and systems of social support within the province's ethnic communities.
In the late nineteenth century, the Canadian Pacific Railway built a branch line through the Crowsnest Pass to tap into the region's rich coal deposits. The new collieries established following completion of the line attracted European immigrants to the Pass to seek their fortunes. Among the new arrivals were a substantial contingent of Poles, who settled in ethnic enclaves in Blairmore, Bellevue, Rosedale, and Coleman, the heart of the Polish population in the Crowsnest Pass. The Polish communities in the region were characterized by a robust sense of cultural identity and a strong ethic of communal solidarity. This sensibility was reflected in the founding of the Polish Society of Brotherly Aid in 1916. The society was founded primarily to protect miners and their families against financial ruin in the event of a tragedy. Each member of the society paid an entrance fee and dues; in return, the society promised to provide benefits to the miner's family if he were injured or killed on the job. Although initially established to offer economic security to mining families, the organization evolved to offer an array of social and cultural services. During World War One, it provided identity cards to members to protect them from being discriminated against as enemy aliens. In the post-war period, it supported a range of cultural activities, including a Polish language school, a large library, a drama group, a choir, an orchestra, and a hockey team. The Polish Society of Brotherly Aid was at the heart of the community's social and cultural life in the Pass.
In its early years, the Polish Society of Brotherly Aid operated out of a house in Coleman. During the 1920s, this humble headquarters became inadequate as a new wave of Polish immigration to the Pass swelled the society's membership. By 1927, more than 240 people belonged to the organization; nearly half of the membership lived in Coleman. To address the growth in membership and the expansion of cultural activities, the society in 1927 built the Crowsnest Pass Polish Hall. Much of the construction work on the hall was performed by community volunteers, a reality manifest in the inconsistent parging. Built according to a simple rectangular plan, the hall included a spacious interior with a stage to accommodate cultural activities. The hall was imparted with a recognizable cultural identity through its sculptural representations of coal on either side of the parapet and through the folk art murals in the building's interior.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1554)
The character-defining elements of the Crowsnest Pass Polish Hall include such features as:
- mass, form, and scale;
- brick construction covered in stucco;
- brick pilasters, sills, and lintels;
- stepped parapet with year of construction "1927" set in relief;
- sculptural representations of coal on parapet ends;
- boxed cornice;
- fenestration pattern and style, including diamond-shaped opening in parapet and original windows;
- original interior elements, including flooring, wainscoting, doors, murals, stage, and trim.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Peopling the Land
- Migration and Immigration
- Building Social and Community Life
- Community Organizations
Function - Category and Type
- Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1554)
Cross-Reference to Collection