Built in 1886 as the Raycraft Dance Hall, this structure was purchased from Annie Raycraft in 1941 by the Town of Genoa. The Genoa Candy Dance was held in the Town Hall starting in1919 and has since outgrown the Town Hall's 260 person capacity. Many other community events and meetings are still held in the hall.
The Genoa Town Hall, above, was originally the Raycraft Dance Hall.
The Raycraft Dance Hall is now the Genoa Town Hall
The Raycraft Dance Hall was built by the Raycraft brothers in 1886 across Main Street from their family hotel or exchange as it was sometimes called. The completed building measured 80 feet by 33 feet and 16 feet in height. The Genoa Weekly Courier described the new hall in their May 14 1886 issue, “The wood is really splendid. There is a large and well arranged anteroom. The foundation is rock and the whole building is as solid as good workmanship could possibly make it."
A “Dedication Ball" was held June 4th, 1886, to celebrate the completion of the new hall. A first class orchestra was engaged and the ticket price of $3 included an excellent supper at Raycraft’s Exchange.
Hon. Wm. M. Stewart, candidate for U.S. Senator, addressed the people of Douglas County on political issues, August 16, 1886, at the Raycraft’s Hall
The Raycraft’s Hall was the scene of a "Candidate's Ball” on 29,1886. The price of a ticket, $2.50, including supper at Raycraft's Exchange. Since early days, the hall has been used for town meetings, melodramas, social events, wedding receptions, and any time the town's people felt the need for a get-together.
On April 5, 1941, a deed was recorded from Annie Raycraft to the unincorporated Town of Genoa. in the amount of $750 for that property known as the Raycraft Dance Hall. The building has since been known as the Genoa Town Hall.
The first "Candy Dance" was held in the Hall in 1919 in an effort to raise town funds for electric street lamps. The dance was so successful it continued each year thereafter.
A dance needs music!
A 1948 Record Courier news article by Editor Bert Selkirk described Genoa’s local musician, C.M. Taylor, as a “fiddler” who had gained wide recognition for his talent. “Mr. Taylor’s ability as a dance musician was gained the hard way” says Selkirk. “Taylor did not read music but that did not mean he lacked the ability to get a grand tone from his instrument. In those days about half of the numbers were square dances, the others including waltzes, polkas, schottische, mazurka and so on.” With the help of a young lady playing chords on the old square piano and Henry Rice, who sawed away on the bass fiddle, a good time was had by everyone at the Raycraft’s Dance Hall.
The 75th Anniversary of the “Candy Dance” was celebrated September 23 and 24, 1995 in the old Raycraft Hall (Genoa Town Hall). It’s charm still undimmed by the years.
The story of the Raycraft Dance Hall must include the Raycraft family and hotel to be complete. Joseph Raycraft and his wife, Ellen, with their family of young children departed Illinois in 1863. Arriving six months later in the settlement of Genoa, the Raycraft family decided to remain. In 1868, Joseph purchased a hotel owned by John K. Trumbo. The new owners of the Raycraft Hotel soon gained the reputation through-out the country for their genuine hospitality and excellent meals.
One windy day, a Genoa resident of the poor house (old Nevada Hotel) placed a pan of burning sulphur under his bed in an effort to kill unwanted bedbugs. Needless to say, this act on June 28, 1910, set the town on fire within a very short time. A great deal of Genoa’s business section was left in ashes including the “Poor Farm”, Hansen’s Saloon, the Odd Fellows Hall, the Union Church, combustible portions of the County Court Hose, Gelatt’s Barn, Hansen’s Hall, Gray’s Blacksmith Shop, the Genoa Fort.
The story has been told that when realizing the town was consumed by fire, Ellen Raycraft, clutching a bottle of Holy Water in her hand, went out into the smoke. She cupped her hand under the bottle, poured, and threw the Holy Water toward the Raycraft Hotel all the while mumbling prayers. Either by prayer or luck, the hotel was saved from the fire.
Joseph Raycraft died at age 74 years on March 10, 1884. Mrs. Raycraft managed the hotel for many years and continued to serve the midnight supper to “Candy Dance” goers at her hotel.
The seventy year old Raycraft Hotel was torn down during the summer of 1935. Old timers watching the razing of the old hotel recalled incidents that made Genoa history during the time the hotel was the best known and popular hostelries of the area.