Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Historic Building In Silverhill Re-Opens

Fairhope, Alabama

Bohemian Hall in Silverhill, Al.

A group of the descendants of turn-of-the-century immigrants to Silverhill from the mid-European region known as Bohemia -- now part of western Czechoslovakia --  gathered this morning to re-open their cherished community hall that had been damaged by a tornado in March of 2011. (Some originate from the nearby province of Moravia as well)

(video below)

Silverhill Mayor Tim Wilson thanked the Save the Little Hall Committee (appointed by the town council in 2011) that had raised funds and provided labor for the restoration for "the initiative to come to me to do what we needed to do ... through good times ... and bad."

Committee chairman Frankie Kucera said members had worked for two years and "put in a lot of long hours in all kinds of weather ... we froze and burned up."

Kucera: "Its done now ... and we're proud to give it back to the city ... hope the people enjoy it the way we did as young people ... a lot of memories growing up ... a place for young people to gather ... have dances on Saturday nights ... so we could have a real good time."

"Its back not like it was before -- but I have been told it's better than its ever been."

Elsie Heidelberg, whose family sawmill cut the lumber for the building, cut the ribbon.


Kucera told the Times the town has agreed to refinish the long leaf pine floors and take over maintenance of the building.

He said his grandparents had come from Bohemia to Silverhill in the 1920s -- passing through the port of New York (separately) then via Texas (grandmother) and Ohio (grandfather).

They came to Alabama looking for land to farm: their occupation in their homeland. His grandfather mined coal in Ohio.

His father (Ben) was born in Ohio in 1904; at one time he served as Chief of Police of Robertsdale and mayor of Silverhill (1960 - 78).

Ben married Georgia Snasel in 1927 -- and they held their wedding dance party in the same Little Bohemian Hall that night, when it was located on Bohemian Hall road, about three miles southwest of its present location. (Georgia was 13 when she came to America with her family.)

(Note: The building is available for rental by contacting the town hall.)


According to local histories, the hall originally housed the Czech-Slovak Protective Society (C. S. P. S.) -- a fraternal organization set up to support the welfare of recent immigrants from Bohemia:

"The Bohemians are industrious, law-abiding people, and their ambition is to build up the country, to broaden the intelligence of their members by means of instructive lectures and other entertainment, and to lead them to enlightenment. Especially bearing in mind their immigrant countrymen, and seeking to aid them to become upright American citizens, an Instructive and Amusing Club was formed, also a Singing Society, "Bedrich Smetana," with its ladies' branch, "Libuse." They have organized in addition two very popular bands. To accommodate and encourage these social activities, two Community Halls have been built, one in Silverhill and the other in Robertsdale. Two fraternal lodges have been formed, which not only protect the families in case of sickness or death but have done much to foster unity among the members and promote the expansion of the colony. To provide marketing conditions two farmers' associations were formed: The Independent Growers and Shippers Association and the Hub Truckers Association, both of which have been a great service."

ribbon cutting


Anonymous said...

Bohemians are cool!

Anonymous said...

At least it will not ever be struck by lightning under the water tower. Hope the city takes better care of it this time. Silverhill could be something special if leaders ever get their acts together.