Crowsnest Pass Polish Hall - Coleman, AB
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 49° 37.902 W 114° 29.807
11U E 680755 N 5500692
Quick Description: Across the railroad tracks south of the main part of Coleman, the Polish Hall was built in 1927 for the then substantial Polish population of the Crowsnest area by the Polish Society of Brotherly Aid.
Location: Alberta, Canada
Date Posted: 8/10/2015 4:20:46 PM
Waymark Code: WMPCW2
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member TheBeanTeam
Views: 2

Long Description:
The need to populate Canada's new west and develop its resources inspired government policies that favored immigration from Europe in the early 1900s, and was also influenced by the religious and political upheavals in Europe throughout the twentieth century. The development of new coal mines throughout the Crowsnest Pass created a demand for experienced miners and inexpensive laborers which resulted in an influx of British, French, Irish, Ukrainian, Polish, Bohemian, Italian, Scandinavian and many others. Many of these immigrants initially spoke little or no English, and tended to congregate in ethic communities within Pass towns that acquired unofficial names such as Italian Town, Slav Town and Bohemian town.

The common bonds of language, culture, food and tradition were expressed in friendship, mutual aid and social events. Several ethnic societies were formed throughout the Pass, typically with membership dues to cover costs which sometimes included the building of a community hall. One such example is the Polish Hall, built in 1927 from recycled bricks and later covered in stucco. In 2009 the Polish Hall received heritage recognition from the Province of Alberta and was designated as a Provincial Historic Resource.

In the days before government social programs and employee benefits, the hardships faced by new immigrants, unemployed or laid-off men, sick or injured persons, and widows and orphans were eased by these ethnic societies. Assistance was also extended by churches, lodges and other benevolent groups, and was later augmented by the rise of trade unionism in the 1920s and 1930s.

One example of an ethnic society was the Sokol, a worldwide Czech (Bohemian) institution begun in 1862 in eastern Europe and brought to the United States in 1865. Sokols celebrated Czech pride through cultural and althletic training. The earliest Sokols in Canada were in the mining towns of the Crowsnest Pass at Michel, BC and Frank, AB.
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Crowsnest Pass Polish Hall

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.

HERITAGE VALUE
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.

CHARACTER-DEFINING ELEMENTS
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.
From HeRMIS Alberta

Type of Marker: Cultural

Sign Age: Historic Site or Building Marker

Parking: Parking available at site

Placement agency: Crowsnest Heritage

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