Touring and Learning About The Bohemian National Hall
On Monday, May 9th, we attended a gathering of Cleveland-Bratislava Sister Cities, Inc. devoted to touring and learning about the Bohemian National Hall, home of Sokol Greater Cleveland's Czech Cultural Center, on Broadway Avenue in Cleveland.
The website for the Center reads, "nine people met in 1988 to discuss the possibility of acquiring a building to house a school where the Czech language could be taught. Eventually, after several meeting with a number of various Czech organizations, a decision was made to build a large hall that would accommodate all of the social needs of the Czech community that had settled in the Cleveland area. The desire for such a hall was important to these immigrants who wanted to establish a place of their own where their children and grandchildren could be brought up to cherish their heritage as well as become good citizens of newly adopted country. To great fanfare by a Czech brass band, their dream was realized when the cornerstone was laid in 1896."
Ms. Barb Golias, an active member of Sokol, reviewed important dates in the hall's history such as the Cleveland Agreement signed there in 1915, U.S. Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy visiting in 1960, Sokol purchasing the Hall and starting major renovations in 1975, the 12,000 square foot gym established in 1999, the museum opening in 2006, and the museum annex/gallery built in 2014.
Ms. Golias then took us on a tour of the entire facility so we got to see and hear all about the gym, the bronze casting of T.G. Masaryk, the pink room, the ballroom and the stage behind it, the library, the annex/gallery, the museum, and the gift shop.
To be sure, we had visited most of these rooms before but we still learned some interesting things like the big chandelier in the ballroom being retractable for the athletic events that used to be played there; the emblems over the door in the ballroom representing Moravia, Slovakia, United States, Bohemia, and Silesia; and that the Hall is one of the first buildings in Cleveland with steel beam construction.
Two room that we hadn't been before but saw on this evening were the library (containing 4,500 books) and the annex/gallery which opened in 2014 with an exhibition by our friend Ms.Kellie Perk. Of course, we always like to see the marionettes which are hand-carved and over 100 years old.
We had a fun moment when we were exploring the stage behind the ballroom which is the largest amateur stage in Ohio. Ms. Golias instructed us to do a turn (as if we were dancers) so we did. She then said that we could say that we had performed on a Broadway stage because Broadway Avenue was right outside.
In the museum, there was a photograph of T.G. Masaryk speaking in Philadelphia. Underneath the photo it was written that "Professor Masaryk announces, in front of Independence Hall, Philadelphia on October 26, 1918 the independence of the Czechoslavak Nation and other oppressed nations of Central Europe, from the place where George Washington announced the independence of the United States of America."
On a different note, in the upstairs kitchen there hung a beautiful banner that read, "Ceska muzika ta srdcem pronika" which translated into English is "Czech music penetrates the heart."
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.