Vilna Pool Hall and Barber Shop

VILNA POOL HALL RESTORATION Vilna, Alberta

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Vilna is a village of 300 people, located halfway between Smoky Lake and St. Paul, NE of Edmonton by approximately 2 hours. This building is the last remaining small town Pool Hall and Barbershop combination in Alberta. It is very rare and has been designated as a Provincial Historic Resource, protected under the Alberta Historical Resources Act.

The building was constructed in the early 1920s. It was purchased in 1935 by John and Sandra Taschuk who moved into Vilna from a nearby farm. They lived in a tiny attached apartment at the rear of the pool hall with the youngest of their children, Marie. John hired a barber to run that aspect of the operation. In 1947, son Bill and his wife Lily took over the Pool Hall and moved into the apartment where they lived until the 1950s, when they built a house for their family nearby. Bill trained as a barber after the war and, with Lily, took over the entire operation.

Pool Hall / Barbershop combinations existed in most small towns. They were the bastion of male culture. Women were, by tradition, not allowed in, nor were boys under 15, although this rule was regularly broken. By the 1970s, pool halls began their decline. The Barbershop and Pool hall remained in operation until 1997, when Bill retired. He died shortly after, but the building was acquired by the Vilna Pool Hall Society. Due to Bill’s late retirement and the fact that the building remained in close to original condition until then, it has a high level of historical integrity. Only the façade had been replaced after a car crashed into it. At the start of restoration, the building contained the original pool tables (dating from before the First World War), pool cue racks, scoring boards and devices, handmade benches and serving counter.

The plan was to gradually restore the building as funding became available. In 2003, the foundations were replaced. The heating and electrical systems were replaced the following year and the façade was reconstructed and completed in 2004. The former living quarters, located at the rear of the Pool Hall will be reconstructed in 2013.

The intent is to fully restore the building as a functioning, interactive pool hall museum, where this remarkable cultural historical icon can be experienced first hand. Along with the recently completed Vilna Main Street Project, Vilna promises to offer a significant opportunity to not only experience an important part of Alberta’s history, but a view into the prospect of small town revitalization. Vilna is a success story for community spirit at its best.

The team

Owner: The Vilna Pool Hall Society

Architects: David Murray and Allan Partridge (Next Architecture) in collaboration

Engineer: E.B. Jacobsen and Associates Engineering Ltd.