When Washington became the 42nd state in November 1889, the Key Peninsula celebrated in style. Earlier that year, the community had come together to build the Vaughn Library Hall as a dance floor for the 4th of July celebrations on land donated by early settler Harry Coblentz.
When the Vaughn Library Association looked for a place to develop a library space a few years later, the community got together once again. With lumber donated by another settler, Alfred Van Slyke (who owned a mill), locals worked to put up walls and enclose the dance-floor space for a library and community center. Through the years, more additions and expansions followed, including a basement and a stage.
Much has changed in the hundred-plus years since. A new library and a community center were built in other areas of Key Pen. But the original Vaughn Library Hall has lived for decades, serving as a residence for the Van Slyke family.
Three years ago, the previous owners, the Docken family, approached the Key Peninsula Historical Society & Museum about the possibility to save and restore the building, which stood vacant for several years.
The family offered to donate the former hall. As the historical society learned more about the building — including the community’s forward thinking to have a library space for their children to be literate and educated — the importance of saving this piece of history became clear.
Members of the society voted unanimously at their annual meeting in 2016 to pursue the project, which fits within the nonprofit organization’s mission to preserve and present history to future generations.
The building is the only community hall of its generation that still exists on the Key Peninsula. The historical society interviewed several community members who still have fond memories of attending events there.
“If the walls could talk, the stories would be fantastic,” says Judy Mills, Key Peninsula Historical Society’s president. “The hall was the place where the community met for church; a gathering place for health clinics, youth groups, plays, weddings, funerals, Boys and Girls Scouts.”
Other events included movies, ice cream socials, graduations and even magician shows. During World War II, wives, mothers and children rolled bandages and made mattresses for their families, as young men went off to fight.
Placed on the Pierce County Historic Register in 2017 and the Washington State Historic Register in 2018, the Vaughn Library Hall will be restored as close to its original state as possible. Already, volunteers have put in hundreds of hours of work to empty the building, clean out debris and repair various areas.
“Fortunately, we have some very talented volunteers with many years of experience in construction who have ‘adopted’ it,” Mills says.
The historical society estimates the total cost of restoration at up to $300,000 and is raising capital funds. The first phase, which will cost about $40,000, is to repair the foundation and make the building structurally secure. New heating and electrical systems are part of a future phase. The library will also be restored, and will include some books from the original library.
Once restored, the Vaughn Library Hall will once again serve as a community hub. The historic society hopes to have exhibits at the building as well as host events such as ice cream socials and choir concerts.
For more information about the project, go to keypeninsulamuseum.org.