Clayton lovingly restored old Endeavor Hall into town showpiece

Clayton lovingly restored old Endeavor Hall into town showpiece

Since its construction as a Methodist church in 1863, Endeavor Hall has been beloved by Clayton residents as an important venue for many memorable events.

Church services, potlucks, plays, dances, club meetings, classes, talent shows and family reunions are just a few examples of activities that have filled the hall throughout its history.

In wartime, this was the place to find women knitting, rolling bandages and hosting community bean suppers for fundraising. When Clayton wanted to avoid being annexed to Concord in 1964, it was here that 91 percent of the small town’s registered voters cast ballots to make Clayton the 13th city in Contra Costa County. It was the place where Mrs. Sigrid Frank would stand on the steps, ringing her hand bell and calling out, “Hear ye, hear ye,” to announce the opening and closing of the polls for local and national elections.

Weddings in the hall might be followed by a “shivaree,” where the newlyweds were “kidnapped” and driven around town in a buggy accompanied by raucous guests clanging pans and making all kinds of noise. The happy couple would return home for a night of wedded bliss and find cowbells had been attached to their mattress, and perhaps the hay wagon had been taken apart and reassembled on their roof.

Circuit-riding preachers

Clayton lovingly restored old Endeavor Hall into town showpiece
Clayton’s Endeavor Hall began as a Methodist Church in 1863. Photo courtesy Dick Ellis.

Joel Clayton owned the land on which the church was built, and Methodist Episcopal circuit-riding preachers arrived on horseback to provide the sermons as part of their regular route from Martinez to Clayton and the Somersville mines. When the number of members began to dwindle, Clayton family members used the hall as living quarters and eventually as storage for hay.

The only other church in town was the Congregational Church, built in 1866 of rammed earth. It seemed to be in constant need of repair, yet church services continued to be held in that ever-crumbling structure. But the Christian Endeavor Society, the parent company of the Congregational Church, bought the old Methodist Church in 1896 for $500 to be used as a social hall for church and community activities.

The building became known as Endeavor Hall and was under church leadership for a few decades until its membership decreased and a few ardent supporters formed the Clayton Endeavor Hall Association, active until 1990.

An event at the hall would cost $7.50 for weekdays and nights, $25 on weekends. A set of dishes generous enough to accommodate a crowd of 50-80 people was provided, and one would pick up the hall key from a hook on the back porch of the Trette house located at the current site of the Endeavor Hall parking lot. Partygoers were required to clean up and vacate the premises by midnight, but for many years Phyllis Frank Easton followed up and worked tirelessly to make sure the hall was in perfect order for the next activity.

1989 Earthquake

At the exact moment the 1989 earthquake hit Clayton, a ballet teacher was conducting a class in Endeavor Hall. Though the tremor was strong, she said the building felt solid. Whether or not the foundation needed repair from the quake was contested, but the fact remained that the building did not meet ADA guidelines for wheelchair accessibility. Renovation costs were too expensive for the association to cover, and so the trustees gave the hall to the city of Clayton in 1990.

Restoration was completed in February 2001, with Endeavor Hall sporting a new roof, a new foundation faced with the original stones, a hidden steel framework, a courtyard, new kitchen and stage, a wheelchair accessible ramp and new windows faithfully replicated to the originals. Much of the wooden framing was saved as well as some wainscoting and the roof of the front porch, but the outhouse, or “chic sale” as some old timers called it, was scrapped in favor of facilities having indoor plumbing.

In 2002, Gov. Gray Davis presented the Governor’s Historic Preservation Award to the city of Clayton for its “commitment to excellence.”

Debbie Eistetter is a board member of the Clayton Historical Society. For more information or to become a member, visit The Clayton Museum is closed for visits during the coronavirus.