Elgin Community Hall

Elgin Community Hall

By Neil A. Patterson

     The sign above the second floor windows in 1924 said, “South Crosby Community Hall”. The South Crosby Municipal Records indeed show that it was the Township Council Building Committee that excepted and choose the bids as well as paying the bills for the construction. Reeve Richard Preston signed the contract for the Council authorizing James Halladay as the contractor. In the late fall of 1873 they held their first council meeting in the new council rooms up stairs.

     The Council Chambers were in the front portion of the second floor and used about 1/3 of that floor. Tables and chairs occupied the centre half and a kitchen the rear portion. The first floor was completely taken by the stage and rows of audience seating. Live theatre and organizations such as the Templars, the Independent Order of Foresters and Women’s Institute met there regularly and payed the township for the use. Various church organizations rented the hall, but when it was used for church service the fee was waved. When the South Crosby Company of the 156th Leeds and Grenville Overseas Battalion returned home after the First World War, the Hall was decorated in their honour. For several years the captured  German helmets, rifles and machine guns decorated the downstairs of the hall.

     In 1924, a group of citizens from the Elgin Athletic Association and the local Women’s Institute met with council to develop a plan for the alteration and up- grade of the Hall. A drive for donations was developed and money from individuals and groups was collected to pay for the alterations, and a contract was let to John McKenney. A new exterior look as well as an additional change room and wash rooms was added along the side at the rear half of the building.

      Branch 231 of the Royal Canadian Legion was formed in Elgin in 1932 and the hall became their headquarters and meeting place. Flags and red, white and blue bunting were the decor of the first floor, plus framed pictures of King George V. Elgin’s Theatrical Players with local plays by Cliff Pennock.

The Knox Presbyterian Church Drama Club and the Queen’s University Faculty Players all provided distractions from the depression of the 1930’s. The Elgin Theatrical Players put on 2 plays a year, each running 3 nights and some Saturday matinees. Some of Cliff Pennock’s photographs from the early nineteen hundreds portray locals that were part of the Theatrical Group.

     Following the Second World War, the Elgin Community Hall was a centre of activities. Movies were shown 2 nights a week with a Saturday Matinee. Gene Autry and Roy Rogers were the big matinee favorites while Errol Flynn brought the girls back every Friday Night. The Elgin Continuation School held their annual formals as did the Lions Club in the 1950’s. The big band era saw Gordon Durrants local band and visiting bands like Glen Gray performing from the Hall stage. Church suppers raised needed funds for the local churches and filled the hall with food and entertainment. It was known as “the time before television” and the hall was the centre of the community.

     The Council met upstairs for their regular meetings and after a full time Clerk was employed, their office was at the head of the stairs. People delivered their taxes in person and had to climb the winding stairs. In 1967, new Council Chambers were constructed on the Davis Lock Road and very soon thereafter the Grand Old Hall became a furniture storage facility. In 2005, the Hall was torn down as no use had been found for it in the previous 25 years. 

     The Union Jack window over the front door can be seen in the 1924 photograph after the alterations were completed. There is no proof of its existence prior to that picture. Was it constructed with the original building by James Halladay, who was very much a lover of all things British and whose family were United Empire Loyalists, or was it constructed as part of the tribute to the returning soldiers of the 156th Battalion, or was it put in with the renovations by John McKenney in 1924. This is a question that will probably be answered when someone family album turns up showing a wedding reception picture at the front of the Hall in 1913.

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