Pierce County Council members voted unanimously to add the Vaughn Library Hall to the official Register of Historic Places in Pierce county, to the cheers of seven hard-working members of the Key Peninsula Historical Society (KPHS) present at the meeting on Oct. 31.
The proposal to restore the library hall began in August 2015 when Donna Docken and her daughter, Nanc, approached the KPHS to ask where they might turn to save the aging building. Docken is a descendant of Harmon Van Slyke, who purchased the library hall from the Vaughn Library Association in 1958 and converted it for use as a private residence.
During Vaughn’s early days, the hall was the center of life for the community. Construction of the library hall began in 1893 when walls and a roof were added to an open-air dance floor built in 1889 for a 4th of July celebration.
“Eager to help preserve the building, several members of the KPHS went to work and presented the idea at the society’s annual meeting in March 2016. The membership approved the acquisition of the property; KPHS volunteers committed to seeing it restored and preserved,” said KPHS President Judy Mills.
After the building and site were appraised for tax purposes, a deal was signed whereby Donna Docken, and her late husband Gary, donated the hall, along with a small triangular piece of property carved from the original homestead of the pioneering Van Slyke family.
The replacement of the hall’s roof by Docken’s brother, Jerry Wolnewiecz, during the time he lived in the building likely preserved its structural integrity. “Fortunately, the basic structure of the building was never altered,” said Mills. When Harmon Van Slyke moved into the old hall in 1958, he never changed any walls. There was no need to re-create what was originally there, Mills said.
By the time Docken approached the KPHS, the aging library hall had been subjected to vandalism and housed raccoons and bats instead of books or people, according to Mills. KPHS received a Ben B. Cheney Foundation grant to remove asbestos and bat guano, according to Mills. “I think we’ve spent practically every Tuesday since we acquired it cleaning,” she said.
“KPHS board member Paul Michaels was the project lead for getting it cleaned out and planning its future,” said Mills. “New member Bart Wolfe, a retired architect from California, provided architectural drawings that were integral to the project and a big help with the KPHS application to Pierce County.”
With the historic landmark registration in place, KPHS volunteers intend to continue restoring the building to its original appearance, with an emphasis on displaying its rich history. The landmark designation will help obtain grant funding to offset some of the cost of doing the preservation work to historical standards.
For more information on how you can help, visit the KPHS website at keypeninsulamuseum.org. Contributions of time and money are welcome.