Rhodes Community HallNW 8-29-22 WPM, Ethelbert area

Rhodes Hall is a well-preserved example of a 1920s-1930s-era wood-frame, boomtown-fronted, rural community hall.

Such structures were commonly located in eastern European districts, where they were erected either as parish halls in conjunction with a nearby rural church, or as secular “National Homes” built by local literary and fraternal organizations.

From the time of initial pioneer settlement until the post Second World War era, such halls were the focal point for most cultural, social, and political activities. However, beginning in the 1950s, as elsewhere on the Prairies, rural electrification and all-weather municipal roads led to “economic centralization” and with it the transference of many rural community events and activities… “into town.”

Modernization spelled the end for many such rural landmarks.

Built between 1931 and 1933, on NW 8-29-22 WPM in the RM of Ethelbert, by volunteers under the direction of head carpenter Nicholas Dormaretski, it was the parish hall for the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Protectoress Ukrainian Catholic Church. The hall was typical of most in that era — wood-frame construction, with a rectangular main plan, rear stage area protrusions, and a moderately pitched, front-facing gable roof with a boomtown facade, which in this case consisted of two steps and a central semi-circular peak.

The interior also featured the characteristic painted canvas mural curtain of an idealized pastoral Ukrainian countryside scene – a fixture of virtually all such community halls.

Rhodes Hall stands out because of its elaborate stage area, which included spacious wings, a large overhead backdrop-storage cupola, a roomy backstage area and an elaborately designed and painted stage surround – an indication of just how popular and important theatrical productions and concerts were to district residents.

It is most fondly remembered for its much-loved Prazniuk supper nights, universally enjoyed by all who had the good fortune of being in attendance. Rhodes Hall enjoyed a longer lifespan than most rural community halls, and continued to be used well into the 1980s.

By the early 1990s it had fallen into disuse, but the site continued to be maintained by area residents as a landmark and local heritage site.

It was designated a protected municipal heritage site by the RM of Ethelbert July 22, 1999. The building was offered to the Ukrainian Folk Arts Centre and Museum, Inc. in 2002 as a possible addition to the Selo Ukraina festival and heritage village site 10 kilometres south of the City of Dauphin.

The gift was gratefully accepted. On September 22, 2002, prior to its relocation, the hall was the scene of one last, very well-attended, Prazniuk banquet.

The relocated, repainted, reshingled hall was placed on a new foundation and now displays and houses the Ukrainian Musicians Hall of Fame. As part of a reconstructed “crossroads” settlement with a Ukrainian church, farmhouse, and schoolhouse, Rhodes Community Hall recalls and commemorates the very active and colourful early decades of Ukrainian settlement in the Dauphin valley. It is open from May long weekend to September long weekend or by appointment by calling 204-638-1554. More information on Rhodes Hall is available online at: www.gov.mb.ca/chc/hrb/mun/m182; www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=8456 and www.tourismdauphin.ca/to-do/attractions-and-activities/selo-ukraina.

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