A brief history of DANIA SOCIETY excerpted from notable works on the subject written by Paul Hoff Kunst, H. Einer Mose, Knud Eriksen and Viggo Hoyer respectively on the 75th, 100th and 125th Anniversaries.
In the beginning, they came, these genial Danes with the skilled hands and stout hearts, to settle in a new land said to offer opportunities and rich rewards to those willing to work hard. Some remained on the Eastern seaboard, Some ventured farther West to the Pacific coast lured by stories of gold rush fortunes and land.
But to all, the great tragedy of the American Civil War caused worry and concern for, when the earliest known movement by those settled in the Chicago area to unite began, armies of the Federal government of the North had already suffered humiliating reverses. It was L862, and the great armed collisions between Union and Confed erate troops at Second Manassas (Bull-Run), Antietam, and Chancellorsville sent shock waves throughout the social and economic fiber of the nation.
But, the Danes who had settled in the vicinity of Kinzie St., and LaSalle St., in Chicago found a rallying place in the Kinzie Inn, Later known as the Klondyke Inn. It was there that one Johan Foster announced a meeting on November 23,1862 to found a Danish sociery a society whose name should be knowh as DANA. Meetings were to be held each Sunday, and an entrance or initiation fee of $2.00 was agreed upon. Eady interpersonal relationships were not without some disagreements, and the society struggled not ro expire in its infancy. Here, the names of George Hoffman, and Emil Dreyer emerge from early records as men who labored diligently to putl the members together reinvigorate them, and go forward with the organization under a new, incorporated name-Dania!
Known activities which took place after reorganization were picnic outings to far-a-way Winnetka, the banks of the Des Plaines river and the sand dunes in Indiana. AIso, a "sick-benefit" was formed and met with some degree of success to the benefit of the members. An "Emigrant" committee was formed to assist those new arrivals in language, employment, personal counseling so that their settlement into the new land and its ways would be less dfficult. The name John Andercon emerges as an instructor and friend to whom many from this early period owed a stable beginning in their work and societal relationships.
There ate references in eady records to a "ladies society", as an adjunct to the men's group, who brought loveliness and beauty into the lives of their men, as even those of our auxiliary do today. Also, they served "Aebleskiver" and coffee to delight the palates of those who came to enjoy evenings of social ind festive pleasure. In this context, the name of Niels Uhrenholdt and his wife, Marie, come forth as experts at the provisioning of the festive board. For one dollar, it appears, Uhrenholdt and spouse provided each member with a beer, a schnapps, a half bottle of wine, and a full course dinner. As the evening progressed, toasts were offered to Denmark, the United States, Dania, Schleswig, the ladies present and without restraint, the Uhrenholdts.
Toward the end of the 1860's differences of opinion arose, and the society went into a period of decline as well as membership. The remaining few carried on, even founding a singing group which later became the group "Harmonien." In 1872 there arrived direct from copenhagen, one Henry L.Hetz who, in the course of time, became very instrumental in easing the tensions and dissensions within the disparate groups. His work brought the people together again and towards the thought of a building of their own for Dania Society.
A building was acquired on Chicago Ave., and occupied by the society but, alas, in 1871, another tragedy occuffed affecting not only the Danes, but also all of Chicagoland - the great Chicago fire. Along with much of the City of Chicago near rhe lake front went, much; in fact, most of Dania's possessions including records, furniture, bookcases, and a considemble library. Dania's banner and a picture of Frederik the VII was all that was saved by Uhrenholdt of whom more is said elsewhere earlier in this review. The society pressed on, however, and in 1874 entered a new period of vitality. Many offers of consolidation with other societies were politely refused with thanks. Thus, tranquilly and soundly it entered the period of the great emigrations of the 80's and 90's.
From this point onward there are many people associated with the society whose ideas and work furthered its progress.
The names are too many to select one or a few without disservice to others not so named. Suffice to say that at the end of the century membership had onceagainbecome strong- 250/300 members - and the desire to have their own building again is consumated with the purchase of the building at 249-51 W. Chicago Ave., in Chicago. A financial depression fell upon the nation in 1893 after the first Chicago 'World's Fair, and many Danes moved Westward into the Wicker Park and Humboldt Park areas. Thus, the building became unfrequented, and it became apparent that a new gathering place must be sought. After much planning , and a resolve made at the time of the 49th anniversary celebration in 1911, land was purchased and a building constructed at l65L-53 N. Kedzie Ave.,being officially dedicated on November 24th., 1912. For many years, this building housed the society and within its walls good food, drink and conversation held forth in typical Danish character.
Alas, the tragedy of World 'War I, a short golden period of stability, and then a major depression followed by another great World War with men marching away possibly not to return. Members of the society served in both, and all experienced the hopelessness of the great depression. But, following the end of hostilities of World War II, demographic changes began to take place in the inner cities of the nation.
November 1962, Dania celebrated their 100th anniversary. The clubhouse on Kedzie was a home away from home to many of the Danish people. Good times werehad by all. Here they could converse in their native language and keep alive traditions and memories of their old Denmaik. The 60ls brought many changes to the Dania Society. The declining neighborhood made it difficult for people to attend Dania, as a result membership dropped and finances became less.
This main factor left the members with the sad decision to sell their beautiful club.
In January 197l Dania changed managers from Walter Gravengard, who left the club to become the manager of Normennenes Society, to Viggo Hoyer, a long time member of this club. At this same time our treasurer Ernest Jensen had to leave because of illness, he was a true Dania member for many years. Because of Dania being in the process of selling the building, the executive committee elected for the new manager to take over the job of treasurer and also in l972 elected him Secretary of which jobs were held by Viggo Hoyer until the club was sold to the Muslums in October of 1972.
All the furniture and fixtures were stored at Anderson Bros. Van and Storage. Later an auction was held to reduce unusable items. This money, from the sale of the club and the auction, was invested and over a period of time increased to $60,000.00. we then made arrangements with the Norwegian Singing Society of chicago, Illinois to hold our parties and meetings at their club until a new Dania Society Building could be found. parties were also held at Nielsens' and many other places.
Harold Tracy and Knud Eriksen, in 1980, negotiated with Skjold, Normennenes Singing Society, and the D.A.A.C. to purchase our new home here in Arlington Heights, Ill. known as SCANDINAVIAN AMERICAN CULTURAI SOCIETY. In 1981 we moved into our new home.
This began a new era for Dania. Our membership has been steadily growing, we are again enjoying good times, meeting with old and new friends.
The above history was compiled by:
HARVEY & JACQUELINE HOYER