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Rocklin History Tour Stop 2:  the Finns in the Hall

GPS: N 38° 47.338', W 121° 13.955'
By: Gary Day, Special to the Placer Herald
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This is the second installment of a 19-part series where Gary Day will take readers on a tour of Rocklin’s historic sites. You can find the sites yourself with a handy Rocklin History Tour booklet, available at the Rocklin History Museum, 3895 Rocklin Road. GPS coordinates were provided by Brian Ignaut. Short stories about Rocklin’s history are at www.rocklinhistory.org/history_series.asp.

Finn Hall is at the corner of South Grove and Rocklin Road. It is the most visible reminder of Rocklin’s once dominant Finnish culture.

Rocklin’s first Finns were among millions of Europeans who immigrated to New York and other East Coast ports in the late 19th century.
 
Finland’s harsh political conditions, made worse by a famine in the late 1860s, pushed at least 350,000 Finns across the Atlantic between 1864 and 1920. Most settled in the Great Lakes states, but others headed west on the railroad.
 
Migration of large numbers of Finns to Rocklin started in 1880, when Finn John Mantyla acquired a granite quarry near the corner of today’s Rocklin Road and Pacific Street, known now as the Big Gun Quarry, and encouraged Bay Area Finns to join him here as quarrymen.
 
By the early 20th century, Finns and their immediate descendants made up almost half of Rocklin’s population and were prominent in Rocklin’s politics, retail enterprises and social life.
 
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. 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. But by 1900, the society was feeling the need for a larger building, a hall with a broader purpose, a focal point for Finnish recreation and social life.
 
In her 1967 memoirs, Helen Kesti remembered that the granite blocks for the steps and foundation were donated by Finnish quarry owners. Kesti’s father and his friends could name the source of every block and whose team of horses delivered it. Finn Hall was completed in 1905.