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Key Number: HS 36748
Site Name: Fensala Hall
Other Names:
Site Type: 0203 - Social and Recreational: Community Centre or Hall

Location

ATS Legal Description:
Twp Rge Mer
36 2 5


Address: N/A
Number: N/A
Street: N/A
Avenue: N/A
Other:
Town: Markerville
Near Town:

Media

Type Number Date View
Source

Architectural

Style:
Plan Shape: Rectangular
Storeys: Storeys: 1
Foundation: Basement/Foundation Wall Material: Concrete
Superstructure: Nailed Frame
Superstructure Cover:
Roof Structure: Medium Gable
Roof Cover:
Exterior Codes:
Exterior: Covered in soffit, north portion of building appears to have been added at later date (possibly an old school).
Interior: N/A
Environment: This building faces angled Main Road and overlooks curling Medicine River.
Condition: Still standing and in good repair. Structure: Good. Repair: Good. 7 JUN 1982.
Alterations: Has been renovated. West and north addition.

Historical

Construction: Construction Date:
Constructed
1902/01/01
Usage: Usage Date:
Hall
1902/01/01
Owner: Owner Date:
N/A

Architect: N/A
Builder: Fensala Stock Company.
Craftsman: N/A
History: Markerville is the only Icelandic Community in Alberta.
1891 - the Icelandic ladies and 'Vonin' was organized in Calgary by the early Markerville executive who were the driving force behind the Fensala Hall construction in 1902.
1902 - a stock company was organized and registered as the Fensala Stock Co. The following spring they built a hall, 24 x 40 ft.
Oldest community hall in Alberta that is in active use and has been used continuously since 1902.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Among the immigrant groups to settle in the Dakota’s during the latter 19 th century were the Icelanders. Due to severe drought conditions during the mid-1880’s however, several of these immigrants decided to seek new horizons in the more northerly climes of western Canada. By this time, the trail between Calgary and Edmonton had become a well used wagon road, and the community at Red Deer Crossing could offer many services to incoming homesteaders. As the district southwest of the Crossing was largely open, appeared fertile, and had just been surveyed, it was recommended by certain Icelandic South Dakotan advance scouts that it offered a good chance for a new life. These people possibly preferred this more hilly and wooded environment to the Dakotas as it was more similar to Iceland, and the Dakota flatlands had not brought them prosperity. They were also intent on mixed, and not just flatland grain farming, a pursuit more suited to parkland than open prairie.

In the summer of 1888, some fifty Icelandic South Dakotans headed north from Calgary, crossed the Red Deer River, and took homesteads off the banks of the Medicine River, mostly to the east. A community was established called Tindastoll after a mountain in Iceland. The following year, another party of Icelanders arrived from South Dakota and settled further north. This party included Stephan Stephansson, who had founded the Icelandic Cultural Society of South Dakota. While in Alberta, he would become recognized as the greatest poet in the Icelandic language since the 13 th Century. His concern for his Icelandic heritage was reflected elsewhere in the community, and, in 1892, a literary and debating society was formed, the same year that a school district was established. The women of Tindastoll also formed their own community club called Vonin, meaning “hope.” The first president of Vonin was Stephansson’s sister, Sigurlaud Kristinsson.

In 1894, a creamery was erected on the banks of the Medicine River. A hamlet soon evolved around the creamery, and, in 1899, it was named Markerville after C.P. Marker, the Danish born Dairy Commissioner of the North West Territories who had taken a special interest in the creamery. With such strong social and cultural initiatives about, it was natural that Markerville would require a community hall. This appears to have been, primarily, the initiative of Vonin, whose annual bazaar, called the Tombola, required a venue. With strong community support, a 40’ x 24’ wood frame hall was erected in the hamlet in the fall of 1903. It was called Fensala, meaning “Home of the Gods.”

The Fensala Hall continued as a focal point for all aspects of community life in Markerville (social and cultural) for the duration of the 20 th century. The five piece Johnson Family Orchestra, a mainstay of the community for over forty years, were a continuous presence. Perhaps most important was the role the Hall played in the preservation of Icelandic heritage as promoted by Stephansson and others.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

The historical significance of the Fensala Hall lies in the role it played in facilitating the preservation and promotion of Icelandic culture in Alberta throughout the 20 th century. It is also important in keeping together the strongly knit Icelandic community which grew up around Markerville and nearby Hola. Along with the creamery and Stephansson’s home, the Hall is a landmark of the community, and central to the historical interpretation of the area.

Internal

Status: Status Date:
Active

Designation Status: Designation Date:
Provincial Historic Resource
Provincial Historic Resource
2003/07/17
2010/06/15
Register: N/A
Record Information: Record Information Date:
Tatiana Gilev 2003/11/19

Links

Internet:
Alberta Register of Historic Places: 4665-0840
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