The Meadowlands National Hall in Meadowlands, MN, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It stands as an example of the many historical lodges built across the United States by Czech and Slovak immigrants, and is still in use today by No. 361 members and the community. It is a visible expression of the Czech heritage and culture in Minnesota.
|Meadowlands National Hall (1995).|
|Meadowlands National Hall interior (1995).|
The original structure was constructed in 1925 with logs cut from the farms of its members. A few years later, an addition was added.
The lodge still has the original sash windows, and inside is a large room with a center stage and balcony. A bar and kitchen are under the balcony. The large wooden floor of the central room is original, so you can almost feel all the events -- from Sokol gymnastics to dances -- that have happened on that floor. Other maintenance to the structure has been ongoing over the years.
In the 1930's, Czech artist Frank Joseph Fryzek painted the interior with oil paintings of castles and landmarks from Czechoslovakia. The paintings are on canvas tacked to the ceiling. He also did the stage and scenery sets on the stage.
Originally, the hall was used by No. 65 members who spoke Czech. In the early years, outside of lodge activities, the hall was home to Sokol gymnastics. A pummel horse, high bars, parallel bars, and rings were installed in the hall. The local Sokol was very active through the 1930's, but declined after WWII.
Mary Marvel submitted her memories of this lodge, and recalled, "Most of us had our wedding receptions, birthday celebrations, dances, plays, Sokol drills, and funerals in this hall. One winter it was used as a roller skating rink."
By 1935, there were younger members who wanted to speak English, so they formed No. 361. Both groups shared use of the hall. One of the plays best remembered was The Night Owl. Around the same time, two movie theaters were built in town as another form of entertainment.
The lodges donated to the ambulance fund for the war effort. After the war, a large welcome home party was held at the lodge for all the heroes.
In 1947, the members of No. 65 and No. 361 used the hall to jointly host the State Meeting. Visiting delegates and dignitaries were housed in member's homes.
Dances continued through the 1960's, but interest waned and they could no longer turn a profit. However, the lodges started renting out the hall for weddings, dances, and other groups. At some point afterward, the debt was paid, and now the building is only used by members for meetings or personal events at no charge.
In 1975, No. 65 merged with No. 361. They held many bake sales over the years, and would bake kolache for two or three days. They also held Bingo, raffles, and other events. Some of the fundraising was to help with ongoing repairs to the National Hall.
In 1985, on the 50th anniversary of No. 361, they were awarded the Plaque of National Register of Historic Places, and it currently hangs in the hall.
Today, members of No. 361 engage in community events and regularly give to worthwhile causes. They still use the hall for activities.
Information for this article was gathered from the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, and information written and collected by No. 361 member Mary Marvel and sent to Western Fraternal Life in 1996. Mary Marvel passed away in 2004, and we sincerely appreciate her dedication and effort.
Call 877-935-2467 to speak with a Western Fraternal Life Representative.