After more than a hundred years as a Scandinavian meeting spot, a low key wedding venue, and “that weird building on Market Street that looks like a ski lodge,” the Swedish American Hall is trying on a new identity.
Following a year of renovations, the Hall will reopen as a concert venue, operated by longtime music festival promoters Noise Pop. The first public show will be Noise Pop’s opening night party on Feb. 23, with the hall serving as the festival’s headquarters for the duration of the festival, and events taking place at the hall every night. When the festival ends, Noise Pop will continue to book shows for the space full-time, and two restaurants will open later this year.
And that’s not all that’s new for the Hall. The building--known for its alpine meets Arts & Craft style--is in the process of being officially designated a San Francisco landmark. Its owners, the Swedish Society of San Francisco, hope it will have achieved landmark status in time for the Hall’s rededication ceremony in early May.
It’s an exciting new chapter for the hall, built in 1907. The Gold Rush brought an influx of Swedes to San Francisco, who formed several fraternal groups in an effort to preserve customs and simply find people to speak their own language with. One such group was the Swedish Society of San Francisco, which started in 1873 as a choral group called the Original Orpheus Singing Club, and sang traditional Swedish songs like “Klara stjärnor” and “Sångarfanan.” Like many organizations of the time, they soon became more of a traditional fraternal organization, offering their members sick benefits and burial services in exchange for dues of a dollar per month.
After the 1906 earthquake destroyed their temporary meeting space, they decided to build something permanent. The society bought the property on Market Street to build a permanent residence for the society, but there was one problem, noted in a history of the hall written in 1925: “Thus the Swedish Society had land and wonderful plans and specifications for a building, but lacked a very important item, namely necessary capital.” But all wasn’t lost: “Did the committee confess failure? They did not.”