SILVANA — Viking Hall stands out on the short drive through town, along Pioneer Highway.
The big, white building made of cinder block sits across the street from the old granary. It’s part of the history of unincorporated Silvana.
In the late 1800s, Silvana’s first hotel was built on the lot. It burned down a couple of times, and eventually the Sons of Norway purchased the property.
About 70 years later, the group donated it to the Silvana Community Association, who still owns it.
Now, the association is asking for help. Rentals at Viking Hall have dropped and the caretakers are in danger of losing the building.
“We figure we have enough money to get us to the end of the year,” said Darlene Strotz, a member of the Silvana Community Association.
She’s one of five people in the association, who are all volunteers. They’re looking for more members to join, to help with the hall.
There aren’t many options if the group runs out of money. It takes about $15,000 a year to keep the space open. Last year they earned about half that much.
Because the association is a nonprofit, it can’t sell the building.
“We can probably gift it to somebody,” member John Engels said. “Or, we can’t pay the taxes anymore and Snohomish County takes it.”
“We don’t want either of those things to happen,” member Mary Fuentes added. “We want to keep it in the community.”
On Saturday, the group plans to have an open house where visitors can learn more about the hall and donate if they’d like. There also will be homemade baked goods.
Inside Viking Hall, there’s a kitchen and a big open room with a stage. It’s been used for events such as memorials, weddings and birthday parties.
Rentals cost $75 an hour, and after four hours it becomes $1,500 for a full day. The group may be able to work with people who can’t afford the full amount, Fuentes said.
The story of Viking Hall begins around 1894, when Anna Swanson, a Norwegian immigrant, built and opened the first hotel in Silvana, according to local historians.
That building reportedly caught on fire in 1901, but most of it was saved. Swanson fixed the hotel soon after, but the next year that building burned down.
She then built a completely new hotel, bigger than the last. Swanson stayed there until about 1925.
She sold the space to the Sons of Norway who turned part of the building into a dance hall, local historian Loren Kraetz said. Kraetz has lived in the Stillaguamish Valley for more than 80 years.
Back then the hall was built out of wood.
“When you get a large group of people doing the polka, that building didn’t seem to be substantial,” he said. “They were kind of fearful it could collapse, so they tore it down.”
Robin Monson Sather remembers visiting the old building when she was a girl. Six generations of her family have lived in the Silvana area.
She remembers watching plays there that her mother would preform in.
“I had plenty of time to play in that building,” Sather said.
Around the time she was 12 years old, in the mid-1950s, it was knocked down and rebuilt again. This time, out of cinder blocks.
Dance parties continued, and people came from all over to join. Both Sather and Kraetz remember times when it would disturb the neighbors.
“Some of those kids who bought tickets weren’t always in the dance hall,” Kraetz said. “There were empty glass bottles to be picked up around the hall on Sunday morning.”
Eventually, the dances stopped. Years later, in 1996, the Sons of Norway donated the building to the Silvana Community Association.
That group has been in charge of it since. Parts of the building have needed work in the past few years, including the flooring.
After decades of floods, the wood floors had warped. They’ve been replaced with concrete.
These kinds of projects have drained most of the association’s savings, and there’s still more to do.
The group of five has been taking on all this work on their own. That’s the main reason they need more members.
But they do it because they care, said Fuentes, one of the members.
“We want to keep it open for the next group coming through,” she said. “It’s part of the history.”
Join the open house from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Viking Hall, 1331 Pioneer Highway. There will be a raffle and homemade baked goods.
The Silvana Community Association is looking for new members. Visit www.silvanavikinghall.com or call 360-631-9050 for more information. The group meets once a month.
Send donations to the Silvana Community Association at P.O. Box 223, Silvana, WA 98287.