1900 - 1982: The Finn Hall
Exhibit by Bob Leathers with Contributions from Gary Milliken
The two-story Finn Hall pictured below was moved from Carbon to Hanna in 1900-1901. The Finnish miners moved the hall by hand seven miles from Carbon to Hanna.
This photo appeared in Amerikan Albumi, a book published in New York in 1904, written entirely in Finnish. There is no other identification as to the author or publishing firm. It is thought the picture above was taken shortly after the building was moved from Carbon to Hanna. (Lynne Kuderko Collection)
The Finn Hall was the hub of life for the Finnish population both in Carbon and later in Hanna.
My great-aunt, Emilia Makela Marttala, (sister of my grandmother, Hilma Makela, daughter of John and Sofia Makela of Carbon) wrote in her journal that her wedding reception was held in the Finn Hall while it was still in Carbon -
"I still didn’t want to get married but as my real good friend Emma Jarvela did, Matt insisted that we should too. So we were married October 13, 1900. Were married in church and then had a dance and serving in a big temperance hall. My dad hired a band from Hanna, Wyoming to play. It only cost $20 at that time." (Lynne Kuderko, January 28, 2019)
When the Finnish miners arrived in Hanna with the Finn Hall it was placed north of the railroad tracks on Union Pacific Coal Company property near the first Hanna school. In the picture below, the Finn Hall is the two story white building,
Hanna resident Gert Milliken remembers going to "Finn school" at the hall. It was there during the summer months that she and all the Finnish children learned to read and write their native language. (Kathy McKee Newspaper Article, July 14, 1982)
The Finn Hall
All the people who remember attending events at the Hall remember Pete Lepponen, who for years was caretaker of the building.
Muriel Kitching recalls how Pete used to stoke up the pot-bellied stove and "roast everybody out!" Eric Lepponen, Pete's son and an Elk Mountain resident now, says, "I used to have to clean the Hall every day after school, there were so many things going on there. My dad would pay me to help him." Eric also recalls how his dad would always dress up as a woman for the many masquerade balls at the Hall. "Dad would try to deceive all the people into thinking he was a woman," Eric says. "And when he was small it worked, except he smoked too many cigarettes and gave himself away."
Others remember the dances, plays and parties that were constantly going on at the Finn Hall.
Catherine Fenimore, of Hanna, says she and her husband would attend square dances and "bring your own bottle" dances. There was no bar in the Finn Hall, so patrons had to furnish their own liquor, Catherine says.
Lucille Jackson recalls that about 30 or 40 Finn couples would hold polkas once a week. "A bunch of us kids, because we were too young to get in, used to peek through the windows and watch them polka," Lucille says.
The local Mark Jackson band would play the Hall often, says Eric Lepponen, who was the pianist. "It was pretty lively town back then," Eric remembers. "There would be a couple of dances on Saturday nights, and the Finns had two more dances every week." (Kathy McKee Newspaper Article, July 14, 1982)
1910: Finnish Band in the Finn Hall. The Finn Hall was home to the 1910 Finnish band. Top row: 1. Pete Kroger, 2. Unknown, 3. Unknown, 4. Rytkonen, 5. Unknown, 6. Unknown, 7. Charles West. Second row: 1. Unknown, 2. Charles, 3. Unknown, 4. Unknown, 5. Unknown, 6. Nestor White. Bottom row: 1. John Annala, 2. Ojala, 3. Ike Parkko, 4. Email Salo, 5. Unknown, 6, Unknown. Band leader was Sylvesti.(Gert Milliken Collection from Gary Milliken)
The Hanna gymnasium pictured below was built in 1924 and burned down at Christmas time in 1946. The basketball team was forced to practice in the Finn Hall and play most of their home games in Rawlins. In spite of it all the Hanna team in 1946 placed third in the District Tournament and fourth in the State Tournament. The new gym was being built during the 1947 school year. The basketball team again practiced in the Finn Hall and played most of their games at Rawlins. The team won the District Tournament in 1947 and placed fourth at the State Tournament.
Early in 1950, the Union Pacific Railroad decided to build a new high school in Hanna. The Company selected a location for the new school close to the existing school, which happened to be occupied by the Finn Hall. In order to build the new high school the Finns were asked to move their building to another Union Pacific Coal Company location. On April 8, 1950, the Finnish Hall Corporation, held a meeting to decide what to do.
Firstly, the meeting was opened by the chairman of the board, A. Kautto, questioning whether this meeting was legally advertised; according to the evidence, the meeting is legal.
A. Kautto made a motion that a person be elected as speaker and secretary for this meeting.
A motion was made and accepted that John Kivi act as speaker and undersigned as secretary.
The speaker explained and read the letter received by the board from the Union Pacific Coal Company's board of directors, who owns this property where the Hall is located. It was explained in the letter, and notified that the Union Pacific Coal Company is not going to renew the lease agreement where the Hall is located. The agreement expires April 30th and notified that the Hall must be moved to another location to make room for a new school in the immediate future.
This question gave birth to several motions, as taken into consideration that the Hall Corporation does not have enough funds to cover expenses of this move.
A motion was made and unanimously accepted to make an offer to the United Mine Workers' Union, local 2335, promising the Hall and including its stoves, tables and chairs, by legal business agreement, to the United Mine Workers, if they accept to move the Hall to another Union Pacific Coal Company location.
A motion was made and accepted that if the Local United Mine Workers' Local cannot accept the offer, the current board of the Hall Company is to sell the Hall to the highest bidder with the understanding that the Hall is to be moved from its current location.
The furnishings which have been gathered for the Hall by the members are to be divided as follows:
A motion was made and accepted to give the Hall piano to the V.F.W. Club in Elmo.
A motion was made and accepted that the Lending Library, located in the Hall, with cupboards, are to be moved to another suitable location; the move will be undertaken by Emil Salo, Eugene Salo and Frank Viita-Aho.
A motion was made and accepted that John Kivi shall offer the Brass Band's instruments and music to the community's high school music director, for the school's needs.
A motion was made and presented that all the theater furniture and costumes shall be presented to the Finnish women's club and they shall be in charge of the transportation.
A motion was made and unanimously accepted that the remaining funds shall be divided into four parts. One-fourth shall be given to the V.F.W. Club. One-fourth part shall be given to the Women's Banner newspaper office. One-fourth shall be given to the Tyomies newspaper office and one-forth part to the Industrialist newspaper office.
A motion was made and accepted that the current board of the Hall Company is charged to see these matters to the end.
A motion was made and accepted to hold a general Finnish dance in the near future, with meal, in memory of the closing of the Hall. It was charged that John Kivi and John Lehti shall arrange the music and Mrs. Alma Williams, Mrs. Ida Ahola, Mrs. Fanni Salo and Mrs. Ida Luoto shall be charge of the meal.
A motion was made and decided to close the meeting now that the motions have been well organized, on behalf of the meeting. Speaker: Albert Aho, Secretary. (Elmo is a small community, located in Carbon County, settled primarily by Finns.) (Minutes of the Hanna Finnish Hall Corportation Meeting, April 8, 1950)
The United Mine Workers' Union accepted ownership of the Finn Hall and moved the building to the north edge of town.
The Finns gave the Hall to the local mine Union 2335 to hold meetings in. According to Gert Milliken, most of the Finnish families had moved by this time and the older people had passed away, so activities at the Hall were no longer held there.
Lucille Jackson says the Hall stayed vacant for a long time, until the town started "booming" again, sometime in the 1970's. "A man then bought it and turned it into apartments," she said.
Virgil Dunn is the present owner of the Finn Hall, and he had been converting it into apartments at the time of the fire.
The cause of the blaze is yet to be determined. The Finn Hall was gutted, however, and a lot of Hanna's history went with it, most of which will only be remembered by the few who knew it when it was "the place to go" in Hanna. (Kathy McKee Newspaper Article, July 14, 1982)
Historic Finn Hall Building Destroyed by Fire
Hanna Herald, July 5, 1982 by Carl Berger
The cause of the Monday night fire that destroyed the historic old Finn Hall building is still undetermined, according to Hanna Fire Chief Richard Gregory.
Firemen responded to the blaze about 10:45 p.m. Monday night, but the flames were out of control before they could arrive.The fire was not controlled until about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Gregory said. The building was totally distroyed.
The historic building was once the place where Hanna residents gathered to listen to band concerts or watch theatre productions. According to research at the Wyoming State Archieves Department in Cheyenne, the building was moved from its original site in Carbon around the turn of the century. According to one article on file there, long poles were placed under the building and Finnish men actually carried the building from Carbon to Hanna.
Although firemen are unsure how the fire started, Gregory ruled out fireworks or arson. The fire started somewhere in the building and was very hot, he said.
The building , located at 3098 Main, is owned by Virgil Dunn and had been converted into apartments. No one was in the building at the time of the fire and there were no injuries.
The fire was reported by next-door neighbor, Joe Bromley and much of the fire department's effort was concentrated on keeping his home from burning.