DeKalb Temperance Hall 'Finnished' 100 Years Ago

Oct 26, 2018

The former DeKalb Finnish Temperance Hall was completed 100 years ago. On this week's Friday Forum, we learn what the building was used for then and now.

Anna Marie Coveny spends a great deal of time at a tall, white building on State Street in DeKalb. It looks like an old church with a tall center column. It is surrounded with wild flowers most of the year. But it was never a religious site. It was built in 1917, and completed in 1918 as the Finnish Temperance Hall.

Coveny is one of the directors of the DeKalb Area Women's Center, which is now housed there. 

Photos of the former Finnish Temperance Hall through the years.

She explains that the first Finns came over at the beginning of the last century. Once settled, they wrote to their family and friends that they had jobs waiting for them at a DeKalb foundry.

"The story goes that the young men in particular who immigrated from Finland didn't speak the language," Coveny said. "They were homesick for the family and friends back in their village, and some of them would get into trouble with alcohol. So the whole theory was: provide a community center. And this was the place to be."

Anna Marie Coveny with the DeKalb Area Women's Center displays artifacts from the former Finnish Temperance Hall.
Credit Jenna Dooley

That place hosted musical performances and lectures.

And it is still used as a community space 100 years later. A couple of decades ago, the founders of the DeKalb Area Women's Center found the space ideal for an art gallery.

"Our main philosophical purpose is to level the playing field so that more women artists have display space available to them. We show both artwork by the men and by the women," Coveny said.

She says the building has held up pretty well in the last century.

"I like to say this building was built with old world love and care," Coveny said. "And we have a substantial piece of architecture here."

The music also continues today. The DeKalb Area Women's Center hosts the Majakka Monthly Music Marathon in the current hall. There are also a variety of stage shows performed in the main hall.

Special thanks to Daerielle Culver for the recording from a recent Majakka Monthly Music Marathon.