Refurbishing Delano Old Village Hall

Delano Old Village Hall or now the Heritage Center is on the National Historic Registry.  Repairs and upgrades are needed to preserve the historic nature of the site and/or help the building meet current building codes so it will qualify for a multi use public building. 

The need for a Village Hall in Delano was felt early in the history of the town.  On September 8, 1887, the Delano EAGLE reported, “It has been said the Mr. S.S. Breed offered to donate two lots on Second Street to the village as a site for a town hall.”  A comment by the editor followed, “If the citizens should desire to build a town hall, it is sincerely hoped a room sufficiently large for theatrical entertainment will be made and that acoustic properties will not be overlooked.”

At a special election held on September 12, 1887, it was decided to spend $3,500 for a town hall.  The vote was 53 to 13.  The property was purchased from Mrs. Mary Bentz for $500.  A contract for a stove was given to the Kelsey brothers.  On October 17, it was voted to purchase brick from Ed Ziebarth who owned the local brick factory.  (Many of the buildings in Delano were made from Ziebarth’s brick.)  On March 13, 1888, the contract for erecting the hall was let to E.J. Swedebalk and Swan Erickson for $3,524.

During the Fourth of July celebration, a dance was held in the unfinished Village Hall.  On August 24, 19888, the Council accepted the building and the first meeting of the Village council was held in the building on September 25, 1888.

After completion, the hall became the center of activities.  The fire department had a home downstairs.  The council offices were also downstairs.  Upstairs was the place for meetings, dances, and entertainment, Church dinners, school graduation, basketball games, wedding dances, and even a funeral was held in the hall upstairs.  One Delano resident reported that sometimes wedding dances lasted two to three days!  In the morning, after a long night of dancing, farmers would go home to do their chores, the townspeople did their work, and in the evening they went back to dancing.

The Delano EAGLE, in the November 15, 1888 edition, gives this report on the first inhabitant of the new jail;  ”The new jail was formerly opened and occupied by a drunken Swede Saturday night who was conducted to the handsome structure by several distinguished officers and citizens of the village.  He indulged in a song and dance for short time and, after cooling off a little and declaring the house of correction a ‘howling success’ was liberated.

In, September, 1890, work began to build a stage upstairs in the hall so theatrical performances could be held.  The next year the village purchased stage scenery to equip the stage.  A year later dressing rooms were added on each side of the stage.  Also, in 1890 the Delano Dramatic Company offered to pay $100 toward $250 needed for a piano but the remainder couldn’t be raised, so no piano was obtained. 

In 1896 the Council voted to build a tower on the building and put a bell in it for fires.  In 1905 two jail cells were installed.     The building continued to hold most community functions.  Village business offices remained downstairs.  In 1940 a library was incorporated into the office.   Later the library was moved.  Village elections are always held in the offices downstairs.  Franklin Township held elections upstairs.

The building was modernized.  The two- story out-house was removed and two bathrooms were put in where the dressing rooms originally were.  The stage was removed and a kitchen was put in, a shower and rest room was also installed in the fire hall.  The hall upstairs was used often for dances and meetings.

As more buildings were built, the Hall was used less and less.  Franklin Township stopped using the hall for elections.  In 1972 the Delano Recreation Committee held a Mello-Dram as part of their summer program.  The Mello-Drama was a great success; it played to 700 people for three summers.

In 1972 the village passed a bond issue to build a new fire station.  The Crow River Federated Woman’s Club renovated the part of the building that was used by the fire department to be made into a library.  The new library was dedicated in April of 1974.  The village remodeled their offices in 1974 and 1975 and now the upstairs was again us as a community hall.

When library expanded to the old State Bank of Delano building the Delano-Franklin Township Area Historical Society created a museum of artifacts in the main level of the building.  In 2010 with a grant to preserve heritage buildings, the city upgraded the fire prevention system and repaired the roof.  In 2011 the front facade was changed back to the the original firehouse look.

Plans for upgrading the interior, adding a catering kitchen and installing an elevator to make the Community Room a more versatile and accessible space.