Thursday, May 5, 2011

Those Places Thursday: Dania Hall, Livermore, California

Dania Hall, Livermore, California
As I've written previously, my great grandfather, Lars Hansen Madsen, immigrated from Denmark to Livermore, California, in 1908. Looking at his ship passenger list, census documents and other historical references (as well as a stroll through the cemetery where Grandpa Louie and Grandma Hannah are buried) it's clear that Livermore has been a destination for a lot of Danes for generations.

One of the gathering places for the close network of Danish immigrants was Dania Hall in Livermore. It was built by volunteers in 1911 and still stands on 2nd Street, between N and O Streets.

Over the years, the Dania Hall has been the Danish cultural center of Livermore and, as a child, I remember spending time there. It was a great place to hold wedding receptions as well as different events from concerts to haunted houses during Halloween. It continues to serve as a rich part of Livermore's history.

Below is a story my Aunt Rae gave me about Dania Hall and it's colorful history. I don't know the name of the publication, but I figure that it was printed in around 1971 because it mentions that my great grand aunt, Maren Christensen Madsen, was 99 years old at time of printing, and she died in 1972. I've transcribed the text below so you can enjoy the history of this great hall and the Danish society that built it!

Centennial Corner

Dania Part of Early Livermore Society

Dania Society was born December 11, 1879, when a group of friends met at a home in Oakland. It was then called “The Danish Social Club of Oakland and Alameda.” After many highly successful social ventures, it was decided that the club was not to be merely a social club, but a beneficiary and benevolent society. Lodge No. Two opened in San Francisco in 1882, and by 1902, the year of the first convention in Livermore, there were 18 lodges in existence.

Livermore’s Dannevang No. 7 was organized July 23, 1892, with 34 members who elected Andrew Simonsen as the first president. Numbered among the charter members were Louis Nielsen, Jes H. Ludvig, Jorgen Peter Olsen, Hans T. Madsen, Chris R. Madsen, William Larsen, Erick Henriksen, Chris H. Groth, M. G. Clausen, P. A. Christensen, Hans Grodt, Hans Mathiesen, Mads J. Moller, and Christian Lilienthal. The Dania banner was made by the Livermore Danish ladies and presented to the men‘s lodge on February 17, 1894, by Mrs. Maren Madsen, now 99 years and still a resident of Livermore. Mrs. Madsen recalls the occasion as “the proudest time of my life – a night I will always remember.”

Livemore’s first Dania Convention, held in 1902, was a gala event, with red and white bunting in the colors of the order decorating the lawn. First Grand President from the Dannevang Lodge was the late Carl Holm who was elected in 1903. Also serving as Grand Presidents were two other Livermore members, Iver Frydendal in 1934 and Conrad Moldt in 1961. Conventions were held in Livermore in 1921 and 1961.

Current 50-year or longer members are John Block, Erik Eriksen, Sam Hauberg, Mads Madsen, Peter Rasmussen, Chris Reuss, Peter Reuss, Chris Svanberg, Louis Thomsen, Louis Banke, Louis H. Madsen and Alfred Petersen. Current membership is 90.

The Dania Hall, as it stands now, was constructed by volunteer labor in 1911. Prior to the construction of the hall, the members met in a building located where the present City Hall now stands.

Danebod No. 16, the Livemore ladies’ organization, was formed October 19, 1905, with Laura Hansen as the first president. There were 73 members then and the group received its charter on July 17, 1920. It will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary next summer. The lodge was named Danebod by the late Mrs. Peter Rasmussen of Dublin. Among the charter members were Mrs. Maren Madsen, Julius Jensen, Mrs. Mika Madsen, Iver and Johanne Frydendal, Mrs. Marie Groth, Soren Hauber, Mrs. Mabel Rees, Mrs. Marguerite Andersen and Mrs. Mary Jensen.

Danebod has two Past Grand Presidents numbered among its members, the late Mrs. Johanne Frydendal who served in 1931 and Mrs. Maren Moldt who served in 1961. Mrs. Victor Hansen, nee Elva Banke, will be the Grand Marshal at the conclusion of the current convention. President of Danebod is Mrs. Rita Post. Delegates attending the convention are Mrs. Kristine Clausen, Mrs. Ada Borch, Mrs. Mette Andersen and Mrs. Ruth Nielsen with Mrs. Lee Austin and Mrs. Sigurd Thomsen as alternates. Attending as representatives of the Dannevang Lodge are Mel Nielsen, Jorgen Clausen, Peter Knudsen and alternates Chris Simonsen, Norman Larsen and Iver Rasmussen. Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Moldt are representatives to the Old Age Fund Meeting.
I love seeing my Great Grandpa Louie mentioned in this article, as well as so many of the other names that peppered our family's conversations while I was growing up: Madsen, Christensen, Rasmussen, Thomsen and Groth, to name a few. I grew up with the grandkids of Mr. and Mrs. Sigurd Thomsen and remember the fun we had at Dania Hall!

Mostly, I admire these Danish immigrants to who came to America to find a new life, but never forgot their roots.


  1. Loved this entry, Wendy. All those old names brought back lots of memories.

  2. Hi Mom. I know! It was really fun seeing all those names in that one story. Love you!