Vilna Pool Hall and Barber Shop


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 1920 by Steve Pawluk. A second storey served as a dance hall. Though it was destroyed by fire in 1921, Pawluk quickly built another wood frame structure, this time only one storey high. This would serve for years as Vilna’s pool hall, barber shop and confectionery. In 1926, the Pawluks moved away and the pool hall was rented out. Ten years later, it was sold to John Tashuk who operated it with his wife Sandra, who moved into Vilna from a nearby farm. Like Pawluk, Tashuk also served as the village barber, while he and his family resided in the back.They lived in the 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.

A tribute from Steve Pawluk’s granddaughter Elizabeth Pawluk: “As we move through time and especially in the midst of the current uncertainty in our world, may we remember that history is the structure on which we are built; the stability that has built our lives. My Grandfather was a true pioneer/entrepreneur. He built – mostly with his own hands – many structures in that area – including the general store we lived in back of for many years. He was a man of courage, foresight, integrity and ingenuity. I remain ever loyal to and grateful for his vision of a new life that brought him to Canada from Ukraine at age 16, leaving home and family behind.”