A community hall with more than 100 years of history in Chilliwack was recently gifted to the city.
The Atchelitz Farmers Institute (AFI) donated its property and the Atchelitz Hall to the City of Chilliwack in July.
“This land gift demonstrates the continued commitment of the Atchelitz Farmers Institute to our community,” said Mayor Ken Popove.
Atchelitz Hall, located at at 6542 Lickman Rd., has been around since 1913.
Back in the day, weekly dances, Sunday school, Christmas concerts, theatre performance and more filled the hall.
“It was a community spot, a community hall in the true sense in the old days,” said AFI secretary Bob Simpson.
But as membership numbers have dwindled over the years and with only seven people remaining with the AFI, gifting the hall and property to the city was the only viable option, Simpson said.
“We’re all aging and unable to keep it going, so we decided to ask the city to take it over,” Simpson said.
“It’s a lot of work to keep it going,” added president Pat MacPhail.
Additionally, over the past year and a half, they couldn’t rent out the hall due to COVID restrictions and insurance rates doubled.
Despite COVID, the hall is still used to this day, more than 100 years after it first opened.
The address – which is actually three properties totalling more than three acres – includes the hall, baseball diamond and sports field. The properties were assessed in 2021 at $2.5 million, the city stated in a press release. As part of the donation agreement, the Atchelitz Women’s Institute (established in 1914) will continue to operate the hall and neighbouring school École La Vérendrye will continue using it for their athletic activities.
According to the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, the hall’s history dates back to 1912, when the community hosted a “bee” to help clear grounds to build the first Atchelitz Hall. The hall, governed by the Atchelitz Union Sunday School, held its official opening meeting on Jan. 6, 1913.
The current hall was built in 1934 after the original hall burned to the ground in 1933.
“You can tell it’s an old building, but it’s been really well kept,” Simpson said.
Members of the AFI want to see the hall designated as a heritage site.
The AFI has been around since 1925, and although the group is now closing and in the process of filling out official government paperwork, activities will continue at Atchelitz Hall.
“We are pleased the public can continue to use the hall, and hope the creation of a commemorative plaque will honour the group and serve as a reminder of the importance agriculture played in the development of Chilliwack,” Popove said.
On Oct. 5, AFI members were presented with the plaque by city council in recognition of this thoughtful and generous gift to all Chilliwack residents, the city stated.
“I’m very happy it’s going to keep carrying on,” MacPhail said.
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