Fontana, California chooses demolition over restoration for historic Slovenian Hall

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California recently faced a somehow challenging decision: whether to demolish or restore the Slovenian Hall located in the city of Fontana.

This historic building, constructed in 1937, has recently come under scrutiny due to the exorbitant costs associated with its restoration. The Fontana City Council has now resolved to demolish this precious cultural heritage within the next two months.

The Slovenian Hall, also known as Slovene Hall, once served as the epicenter of the Slovenian community in Fontana. In 2021, the building was sold to the city of Fontana, after having long been the heart of social and cultural life for Americans of Slovenian descent. However, complications arose following the acquisition.

The Slovenian Hall in Fontana, California will be demolished within the next two months

Initially, there were plans for the renovation of the Slovenian Hall, but a cost analysis swiftly revealed significant financial challenges. Restoration costs were estimated to be at least a million dollars, a substantial burden for the city’s coffers. Consequently, city council members opted for an alternative solution – the demolition of the Slovenian Hall. This decision comes at a cost of $141,000, a choice they deem more sensible and cost-effective.

Slovenes and Americans of Slovenian heritage began settling in Fontana as early as the 1920s. Their history is closely intertwined with miners who migrated to California with aspirations of poultry farming. Later, many of their descendants and newcomers found employment at the Kaiser Steel mill, which opened its doors in 1942.

The Slovenian Hall in California was built in 1937

As these events unfolded, the Slovenian community in Fontana flourished, culminating in the establishment of the Slovenian Hall and a retirement home. The Slovenian Hall became a hub for numerous events featuring polka music, hosting renowned accordionists, including the king of American polka, Frankie Yankovic.

Times have since changed, as has the Fontana community. Their descendants embraced American culture and dispersed, while the core of the community aged and diminished.

Consequently, the decision to demolish the Slovenian Hall became inevitable, marking the end of one of the most prominent ethnic communities in Fontana. Nonetheless, the history of these premises will remain an integral part of the area’s past and heritage.