Wednesday Apr 11 2012
Heart, soul put into constructionof Finn Hall
By: Gary Day, Special to the Placer Herald
Rocks, Rails and Ranches
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on the Finnish immigrants who played a large role in the settlement of Rocklin. Rocklin’s booming granite industry and general good economy attracted large numbers of Finns starting in the mid-1880s through 1910. But as the granite industry flourished, so did Rocklin’s saloons. Released from the strictures of Finland’s state church and craving relaxation after hard days in the quarries, some Finns developed worrisome drinking problems. As a result, concerned family members established Rocklin’s Finnish Temperance Society in 1889. At first the society met in a small building that later became Rocklin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. By 1900, the society was feeling the need for a larger building with a broader purpose — a focal point for Finnish recreation and social life. In her 1967 memoir, Helen Kesti described her family’s involvement in the construction of Finn Hall. She said the granite blocks for the steps and foundation were donated by Finnish quarry owners and that her father and his friends could name the source of every block and whose team of horses delivered it. Finn Hall was completed in 1905. Kesti remembered that early 20th century Finn Hall was busy with the daytime socializing of Temperance Society women, mainly quilting parties and sewing bees. Husbands and sweethearts would sometimes join the women after work for band practice and parties. The powder room was often jammed with children playing among the baby buggies. At Christmas, Santa Claus climbed down a ladder from an upstairs trap door to deliver candy and Whitney Ranch oranges. At about this time, Finn residents formed the Rocklin branch of the Finnish Kaleva Brothers and Sisters Lodge. The lodge’s purpose was to preserve the Finnish language as well as provide Finns with life and health insurance. Despite the Kalevas’ best efforts, “Finnliska,” a strange combination of English and Finnish words and grammar, gradually replaced spoken Finnish. Today traces of the Finnish language have almost disappeared here, although a few second and third generation Finns occasionally speak the language among themselves, especially at Finnish social functions. The ability of the Temperance Society to influence and bind Finn culture must have waned during the 1910s with the onset of Prohibition. Rocklin’s population also declined as demand for Rocklin granite declinedand labor strife hit the quarries. Maintaining Finn Hall became a financial burden for the Temperance Society, so in 1948 they sold it to the Kalevas. The city of Rocklin purchased the building in 1962 with the goal of preserving it. Finn Hall continues to dominate downtown Rocklin. At the corner of South Grove and Rocklin Road, it is an enduring reminder of Finnish influence on the development of our city.