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St. Bonaventure breaks ground on new parish hall in Raeville

With Father Ross Burkhalter wielding a shovel, St. Bonaventure Parish in Raeville broke ground May 22 on a new parish hall – to include air conditioning, handicap-accessible restrooms and other improvements over the current building, which dates to 1890.

Donations and two fundraisers over the last year raised more than $280,000 toward the $350,000 project, and a June 4 "Last Dance at the Old Raeville Hall" raised about $7,000, said Chris Grundmayer, a parish trustee and member of the parish hall committee.

The committee and Burkhalter, pastor of St. Bonaventure as well as St. Boniface Parish in Elgin and president of Pope John XXIII Central Catholic High School in Elgin, determined that building a new parish hall would cost about the same as renovating the old one, Grundmayer said. The building is important for parish and community family reunions, funeral luncheons, wedding receptions, fundraisers and other events, she said.

The old structure also is significant for its history and its use by the community, and it will be maintained by the parish, perhaps as storage or to meet other needs, Grundmayer said. It was built as a horse barn, converted in the 1930s to a basketball court with a dirt floor, then to the parish hall with a wood floor from an old opera house, she said.

From the 1940s through the 1970s it was the site for many dances held at Raeville. And Lawrence Welk, early in his career, performed there.

"It’s historic," Grundmayer said. "Many people traveled to Raeville for their dances and can recall the fun they had socializing there."

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