The Whallonsburg Grange Hall was built in 1915 by the members of the Grange Chapter 954 of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry. The chapter here was one of thousands of Grange organizations in rural communities across the country that flourished beginning in the mid-19th century, claiming a national membership of nearly 1 million by the mid-1870s. The purpose of the National Grange then and now is to promote education, community engagement and the political and economic interests of farmers and other rural residents. It was the first national organization to admit women as equal members and promoted women as officers. It was actively involved in the movements for women’s suffrage, temperance, and to defend farmers from price-gouging by the railroads.
The Whallonsburg Grange chapter was founded in 1903 and became the largest and most active in Essex County. The Grange Hall was the site for meetings, Junior Grange events, community suppers, theatricals, and all sorts of other activities. Local residents have fond memories of weddings, receptions, and dances taking place here over many decades. But by the mid-1980s, the Grange chapter had declined to several dozen members who found it difficult to manage the costs of running and repairing the building. Various attempts were made to keep the building open, but by the mid-1990s the Hall was shuttered.
In 2006, a group of residents got together and developed a plan to save the Grange and create a vibrant arts and community center. By then, the Town of Essex owned the building and agreed to allow the nonprofit Whallonsburg Civic Association to manage it. Beginning in 2008, volunteers from all over the Champlain Valley restored and renovated this historic building. People donated thousands of hours of labor and over $150,000 to install new electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and sanitary systems; install a state-of-the-art audio system, movie projector, and stage; and create a multi-purpose dining room, build a community kitchen, and lots more. It remains a volunteer-run community center with a mission that harkens back to the original Grange – to be a center of life in this rural community.
Today, the Whallonsburg Grange Hall, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, manages the building through an agreement with the Town of Essex.
Learn more about the National Grange here:
Visit the Town of Essex historical archives to learn more about the history of the Whallonsburg Grange: