The Mansons Hall Story

The Mansons Hall Story

Top photo credit: (l to r) David Rouseau, Elmer Ellingsen, Elmer’s daughter-in-law Ginnie Ellingsen and John Woolley. Mansons Hall’s outhouses are in the background. – courtesy SCCA

By Roy L Hales

He settled on Cortes just after BC Ferries started serving the island. John Sprungman became one of the principal voices behind the 1978 – 80 renovation at Mansons Hall. He went on to serve several terms as President of the Southern Cortes Community Association. In this morning’s interview he talks about the origins of Mansons Hall, its role in the community and why it needs core funding.

Photo credit: John Sprungman during the 1970s – courtesy SCCA


The very beginning of Mansons Hall, according to people who were here at the time, was around 1921. It was built by a logging crew working on Gunflint Lake. That was the story I got from Robbie Graham, which he heard from his father. It was primarily used for dances and people were getting together for occasional meetings …”

“When my wife and I came in 1971, [Mansons Hall] was pretty beat up because the [old] Cortes School was actually on the other side of the road from the hall(where the Co-op is now), [and] used it for a gym. So the windows were all covered with fencing wire, the big lights down the centre all had wire cages around them. The place was used for floor hockey, dodge ball and stuff like that …”

… It had a small kitchen off one side, the Sutil road side, and on the other side there was a little building … which was the liquor room and securely locked up. That was for the dances.”

“When we first came, the dances could be pretty rowdy. All that liquor would come out and if the dance didn’t end in a fight – it was surprising. There was a little blackboard on the porch [listing] the people who were banned from the next dance for fighting at the last one …”

(In the podcast, John Sprungman describes life at a time when most of the population still worked in the fishing and logging sectors, roads were not paved and there were about 351 people on Cortes Island.)

(from top down) Dennis Newsham, Martha Abelson, Gail Ringwood, Ian Moul taking shakes off the old Mansons Hall roof – photos courtesy SCCA

The 1978-80 Renovation To Mansons Hall

“Some of us who came in the 70s, after the ferry came, were interested in putting some other things together at the hall, including the Post Office, which was down by Mansons Lagoon in a small building … and then a playschool that was being operated over at the lake by Amelia Hanson. We had our kids going there and some of us were thinking maybe we could put something together here …”

During a 1978 Southern Cortes Community Association meeting, John Sprungman proposed that they build a new hall – and was promptly voted down. “I was basically told to think again.”

“Then Elmer Ellingsen got up … and said, ‘Well the hall does need to get fixed up. What if we start out by fixing up the building that exists and then we’ll see where we can go from there and if we can get enough money to do it. People agreed to that.”

Mansons Hall Addition
Building the big addition – Courtesy SCCA

So I wrote an application to what used to be called the winter works program and managed to get enough money to hire a half dozen people and start fixing up the old building. So we did that through the winter of 78-79 … We managed to fix it enough for the community to really get on board.

The Big Addition

Mansons Hall renovation
(l to r) John Gordon, David Rouseau, Doug McGillis, Howie Brown, James Binne & Brad Sivers – courtesy SCCA

… So did the grant people, to do[the addition] the next year. They like successful projects and we managed to get done what we said we were going to do.

“One of the things that happened as a result of the choice to keep the hall that we had and fix it up was that we ended up pretty well locked up down into that corner of the property on Beasley and Sutil point road. In order to get the addition on the same floor level, we ended up digging into the grade as it went up Beasley road. That is how we ended up with the hall kind of in a hole, with the parking lot above it. The original idea, from some of us, was let’s build a new hall up where the parking lot is.That didn’t fly and it was all about the history.”

(There are a lot more anecdotes about Cortes residents, past and present, within the podcast.)

Cortes Ventures at Mansons Hall

“I think we have an interesting facility now, that has been useful over almost forty years.”

The Mansons Hall Story
After the Addition was finished

An Essential Community Service

“Here we are now and we’ve still got a facility that is still doing what it has done over the years, providing a space for people to do things that are needed in the community now. A good example is there is a real need on the island for a woman’s centre. So that space became available and they’ll find funding and contribute to what it costs to maintain the hall … You end up with a whole lot of services that are needed in the community and that will grow if the housing project … on the senior’s land [Rainbow Ridge] is successful, there will be an even greater need for that space to be available.”

… All of these things require funding and for a long time the thing that made a big difference was that the Gaming Commission in BC was willing to provide money that could be used for core expenses.”

The Gaming Commission cut the funding off.

Emilie & Gunnar Hansen finishing the Playschool

The Hall Funding Referendum

To me, [Mansons Hall] is an important and essential community service. Imagine Cortes Island without its community halls, as they exist. How are we going to sustain them?

“Obviously people pay rent, a number of people and organizations use the hall … People pay occasional use. They pay to go to the Friday Market. But when you crunch the numbers you find out that if you keep raising those fees you just get less out of it. You can’t just charge more and expect people are going to use it.”

“It is really hard to find people who want to serve on community boards where money is a huge issue and you spend all your time trying to figure out how to get enough to keep it going … You just can’t put a group of people in that position, year after year. They burn out.

(l to r) David Rousseau & Ken Hansen – courtesy SCCA

So on Saturday, October 26, 2019, Cortes Island residents are to vote on whether hall tax funding should be added to their taxes.

The table to the right was taken out of the Cortes Island Voter’s Guide.

All electors mut meet the following qualifications:

  • Canadian Citizenship
  • 18 years old or older on general voting day
  • Resident of British Columbia for at leasat 6 months at time of registration
  • Not otherwise disqualified from voting

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