Ribbon cutting held during Slavnost May Fest on May 19. Click on image to see more photos.

Ribbon cutting held during Slavnost May Fest on May 19. Click on image to see more photos.

History Comes to Life on TCHCC campus with Rededication of SPJST Lodge 19, Velehrad Hall

History resonates within the walls of the SPJST Lodge 19, Velehrad hall.  On Sunday, May 19, 2019, SPJST members and well-wishers celebrated the Grand Re-Opening of the SPJST Lodge 19, Velehrad lodge hall on the campus of the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center (TCHCC) in La Grange during the annual Slavnost - Mayfest:  A Tribute to Czech-Texas Immigrants of All Years.

The lodge was moved from its original site in northern Lavaca County in the Velehrad community to the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center on November 9, 2017 by Kana Brothers, Inc.

Beginning in the spring of 2018, SPJST Foundation directors started making repairs.  By the end of 2018, the building was ready to be painted both inside and out.   Hutton Painting of La Grange was selected for the job, including the sanding and sealing of the longleaf pine wood floor.  From the selection of paints to the refinishing of furniture and other interior appointments, efforts have been made to restore the hall’s exterior and interior condition much the way it would have appeared in the summer of 1897 when the SPJST (Slovanska Podporujici Jednota Statu Texas) was established and SPJST Lodge 19, Velehrad received its charter as one of the SPJST’s first 25 charter lodges.

The Grand Re-Opening of the SPJST Lodge 19, Velehrad Hall here in La Grange represents a continuation of the restoration efforts which commenced in 2002.

“Many hours, days, and weeks went into the original restoration of the building and cleaning of the cemetery in the early to mid-2000s,” says SPJST District Six Director Karen Kaspar, who concurrently serves as a director of the SPJST Foundation.

“David and Janie Bucek were instrumental in the research and development of this project.” “I, am also, so very appreciative to the volunteers, SPJST Foundation, and the many hours, days and weeks that have gone into this past couple of years of moving the Velehrad Lodge Hall to its present home at the TCHCC and restoring it once again to its historic beauty! Thank You All!”

In the spring of 2006, the exterior of the building was restored by members of the SPJST District Six Cemetery Association. The SPJST Foundation expresses tremendous gratitude to those caring individuals whose efforts rescued this historic SPJST charter lodge hall from obscurity. As a result of these past and more recent efforts, the Velehrad lodge hall will be a place where history comes to life and new memories are made. Special thanks to TCHCC Manager Mark Hermes for his hands-on support throughout all phases of the project.

“I see the restoration of the SPJST Lodge 19, Velehrad lodge hall as part of a larger and ongoing effort,” says SPJST President Brian Vanicek, who concurrently serves as President of the SPJST Foundation.

“Whereas many of the physical elements of the lodge hall have been redressed: change of location, structural stabilization, interior as well as exterior reparations and painting, and furnishings restored, the Grand Re-Opening sets the stage for the next phase of the reclamation process — and that is sharing the Velehrad story with others.”

Even as the Velehrad story is replete with specific names, dates and places, it is a story of immigration, determination and assimilation — a story that each of us as pioneer descendants have in common. Considerable research as it relates to Velehrad — the community, the lodge and the cemetery — has already been done thanks to Janie Bucek of SPJST Lodge 151, Wharton. Janie and her husband, David, were closely involved early on with the efforts to restore the lodge hall as well as the efforts which resulted in Texas state historical markers for the SPJST Velehrad Cemetery adjacent cemetery.

 There are lessons to be learned from the Velehrad story. The more we learn from the past and by discovering how things were and how they evolved, the better-positioned we will well rediscover the strengths that define the SPJST as an institution and — for many families — a part of life.