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Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Friends of the Lower Blue River purchase Slate Creek Community Hall
Marty Richardson / Special to the Daily
The sounds of social gatherings and spirited dancing will once again fill the Slate Creek Community Hall on a regular basis. On June 16, the Friends of the Lower Blue River acquired the historic building from the Summit Historical Society. This Saturday, June 28, the friends group will hold its annual summer celebration at the hall, a gesture echoing decades of local tradition.
Years of use
Built in 1936, the hall was a Works Progress Administration project, but it was also a labor of love, according to Summit County historian and author Mary Ellen Gilliland. “Many of the local residents donated work and materials,” she said, including the land. “It was lovingly constructed.”
The hall sits on 7/10 of an acre north of Silverthorne, near Ute Pass. Boxy and white on the outside, inside it features a small stage and a specially ordered oak wood floor. (According to Gilliland, most floors at that time were made from maple.)
Dancing was a big part of social gatherings in the hall, Gilliland said.
“Everyone came and everyone dressed up. They got all gussied up, the girls, and everybody from the grandpas down to the little kids were there,” she said.
The revelry lasted through the night, with frequent trips to the cars parked outside for furtive sips of alcoholic beverages that were not allowed inside. Somewhere around midnight, the dancing would pause for supper, which was often locally caught trout, Gilliland said. This wasn’t the end either, by any means.
“The dances were supposed to end at 2 a.m., but the partygoers often took up a collection to pay the band to continue until daylight, and they stayed all night long,” Gilliland said. While the adults danced, the children inevitably drifted to the edges, where they curled up to sleep underneath piles of coats.
“I think of the stories that would seep out of the floors and walls if you take time to listen,” Bob Sweet, friends group board member, wrote in an email. “The laughter, the cheers, the tears, the sharing and caring of Lower Blue Valley residents then and, starting this Saturday, or residents now.”
The most recent social gathering will take place Saturday, June 28, at the hall, which Sweet wrote, “is in wonderful condition” for its 78 years. An ice cream social will follow a short meeting, along with a performance by folksinger Kerry Grombacher.
“One of our objectives is to help preserve that way of life in the Lower Blue and work toward historical preservation,” said friends group executive director Marty Richardson. “That’s why we’re very pleased to have this property.”
The event is family friendly and all are welcome.
“This weekend’s event is an invite to those who feel and share those same values to join us, celebrate and socialize with old friends and make new friends,” wrote Sweet.
In order to hold events in the building while maintaining its integrity, the friends group plans to work on various restoration projects, starting this summer.
“Right off we’re going to be working on getting it painted and getting the outside of it fixed up,” Richardson said.
The hall received a new roof in 1998, along with electrical upgrades. The group will continue updating the electricity, as well as anything else needed.
Sweet added that the plan is to “revive the heart and soul of the building.”
In the future, Richardson said, the hall might be used for nonprofit group meetings or a showcase venue for artists. Most importantly, the historic aspect of the building will be preserved.
“If you move a building from its original site it loses all historic ranking, it can no longer be a historical site, a historical building, and the state historical society won’t recognize a building that has been moved,” Gilliland said, “so it’s a real boon that it can stay on its original site. It’s a wonderful thing.”
The Slate Creek Community Hall is a designated historic site as recognized by Summit County. The friends group plans to apply to the state for historic status as well.
“In terms of really looking at history that’s disappearing from our state, and these places that were built during the Depression for the Works Progress Administration, those are important things to preserve the way of life that is really fast disappearing here in the state,” Richardson said. “So preserving those buildings gives us a link to our past and to understand who lived here and why and how this whole area was settled.”
By preserving the building, the friends hope to preserve the memories and history that it represents.
“As always, the building will be used for a place of interaction of the community to address issues common to us all, a place to advocate for the land and people of the valley, a place to educate and be educated on common issues that confront us all,” wrote Sweet.
“I look forward to it again being a place to meet neighbors, share like interests, learn of new interests and develop understanding and trust.”