Key Peninsula Historical Society & Museum

The Story of Vaughn Library Hall

The Vaughn Library Hall is the only original meeting hall still standing on the Key Peninsula.  Once, every community on The Key had a meeting hall; now all are gone except the Vaughn Library Hall.  The Key Peninsula Historical Society, the current owner of the Hall, is committed to its restoration.

The Hall began life in 1889 (the year Washington became a State) when the young men of Vaughn wanted to celebrate the 4th of July with a dance.  They built and named “The Bowery Dance Floor” and decorated it with cedar boughs, fir boughs and other foliage on property donated by Alfred and Mary Jeanette Van Slyke.

1893 Vaughn Library Hall under construction

The Vaughn Bay Public Library Association was created in 1892, and opened one of the first libraries on The Key, originally housed in the post office / general store.  They quickly outgrew this space and, coupled with a need for a meeting hall, the community decided to build the Vaughn Library Hall on the spot of the “Bowery Dance Floor”, land now owned by Harry and Julia Coblentz.  In 1893-1894, the floor, walls and a roof were built to create the main hall and tower.  It became the community center to host and support the social and civic events of the growing town of Vaughn.  The library moved into the corner of the main hall under the tower.

Vaughn Library Hall VBPLA members

Vaughn Bay Public Library Association members on a trip to the state museum in Tacoma

Use of the Hall continued to grow.  In 1905, the rear wall of the hall was removed and a raised stage and dressing room addition was added.  This allowed for more and different events by both the community and by the new, nearby, high school, see below.

Vaughn Library Hall circa 1910

Vaughn Library Hall circa 1910

In 1926, the library had outgrown its space in the corner of the main hall.  Rather than take more space from the Hall they built a second addition alongside the main hall to house a dedicated library room.  At the same time a kitchen was added to serve the main hall and a basement was dug out andconstructed under the Hall.

The Hall began to serve more than the community of Vaughn.  The first high school on The Key, the current civic center, was built up the hill from the Hall, starting in 1906.  But, until 1937, it was lacking a gym and a stage.  High School students from all the Key communities therefore used the Hall for their dances, plays and other ceremonies until the high school gym was built.  They even left a record of some of the shows they presented that we have preserved.

The Vaughn Bay Public Library Association continued working with other communities to create their own libraries.  They were also one of the original organizations who created what is now the Pierce County Library System.  In 1946 the Vaughn Library was officially included as a “Pierce County Public Library Station”.

The Hall continued to be the community center for Vaughn until 1956, when the library was moved to the current Civic Center and continued as part of the Pierce County Branch Library System.  In 1957, the Hall was sold to Harmon Van Slyke who converted it into his residence.

In 2016, Donna Docken, the owner at that time and a Van Slyke descendant, donated the Hall to the Key Peninsula Historical Society (KPHS).  She knew how historically important it was to preserve the Hall and felt KPHS was in the best position to restore it.

KPHS is currently in the process of doing just that, restoring it to record and preserve its history as the only remaining original community center still standing on the Key Peninsula.  Once complete we will make it available for public access so all can see and learn more about this very special place!

Children performing on stage at Vaughn Library Hall in 1930

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