Just about everything is defined by a name. And, in most cases more than one name is given to designate the very essence of a particular person, place, etc. We’ve taken to naming as a bit of a hobby at buds ‘n bloom. We’ve named most everything after a flower, plant, or tree. Our passion for floristry has inspired and informed nearly all that we do. Our delivery vehicles are named Rosie, Daisy, Fern, and Spruce. The shop pups are Petal and Willow. (Petal wasn’t big enough to be a whole flower.) Naturally, we thought our new space would need a flower name. Nothing seemed to work with our usual approach, so we went rogue and embarked on uncharted territory.
When we started trying to name the building, we weren’t really even sure what it was going to be. Our immediate need for the building was for additional special project space and temporary storage for buds ‘n bloom. Our first idea for the rest of the building was to maybe try renting it out as it was. After poking around with a few things such as getting to know 901 Shawano’s old mechanical systems, flaking up flooring, purplish carpet, and not to mention the water issue in the basement music room, the vision for the property changed dramatically. We realized we had to make the large main space work very differently than it had been set up originally. Necessity is the mother of invention. New inventions need new names.
The greatest revelation to us was our research into what Gothic Revival or Neo-Gothic architecture is and how that style will influence where we go with just about everything. Gothic Revival was a mid-19th century architecture movement that sought to recreate the style and detail of medieval design. Also commonly called Neo-Gothic, the design style is characteristic of its pointed arches, tracery windows, and castle-like towers. For Jerad and I, knowing this style detail, gave us a starting place for what the experience of this space is meant to be. While Neo-Gothic style was mainly a 19th century movement, instances of its architectural style were repeated well into the 20th century, especially in churches. The smaller section of our building was built in 1938 and it was later added onto in 1950. We don’t have source materials for what the 1938 section of the building may have looked like inside, however the 1950 addition seems to have been added in keeping with the overall style. Key features of our building remain unchanged from when it was built.
Green Bay’s Westside is dominated by several buildings that have “west” in the name. Notably, West High School is across the street from 901 Shawano. Given the frequency of west and western in the naming of many things, it was top of mind when we started thinking about the character of our neighborhood. We also had a desire to choose a name that respected the architecture of our building too. So we started playing around with a variety of combinations of west, western, westerly, church, chapel, stone, gothic, and many more. Clearly additional research was going to be required to find something that fit. Nothing obvious seemed to capture the essence of our building.
Research around 19th century gothic churches and identifying what our building most resembled was eventually the most productive. Jerad and I felt that the look and feel of the building resembled more closely the gothic structures from the UK more so than those found on mainland Europe. We started looking into examples of small gothic churches in the UK, many of which were in Scotland. (Thankfully, the internet is a wealth of examples of gothic churches. Though, I wasn’t opposed to an extended vacation, however that wasn’t possible.) I came across a few Scottish churches that look very much like ours, and after some brief soul searching, I decided that’s what we were. Neo-Scottish. In all reality, I’m as much Scottish as I am French, which is zero. However, in America we’re all a little Irish, so I thought this qualifies. We can all be a little Scottish, what with the melting pot metaphor and such.
Interestingly enough, our new found Scottish identiy helped us pick a name. Also in their favor, the national animal of Scotland is the unicorn. We love unicorns. In many ways, finding our little slice of heaven here on the Westside of Green Bay was like finding a unicorn. As I started reading about Scotland, its history, literature, etc. I came across a 19th century poem/song by Allan Ramsay that had the magical word in it: WESTLIN. It is also very wedding appropriate.
Tune, -' Busk ye, my Bonny Bride.'
Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny bride;
Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny marrow;
Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny bride,
Busk and go to the braes of Yarrow;
There will we sport and gather dew,
Dancing while lavrocks sing the morning;
There learn frae turtles to prove true:
O Bell! ne'er vex me with thy scorning,
To westlin breezes Flora yields,
And when the beams are kindly warming,
Blythness appears o'er all the fields,
And nature looks mair fresh and charming.
Learn frae the burns that trace the mead,
Tho' on their banks the rosses blossom,
Yet hastily they flow to Tweed,
And pour their sweetness in his bosom.
Haste ye, haste ye, my bonny Bell,
Haste to my arms, and there I’ll guard thee;
With free consent my fears repel,
I'll with my love and care reward thee.
Thus sung I saftly to my fair,
Wha rais'd my hopes with kind relenting.
O queen of smiles! I ask nae mair,
Since now my bonny Bell's consenting.
According to Merriam-Webster, westlin traces its origin to 1720. It is Scottish for westland or westling, meaning westerly. The word also appears notably in the writings of Scottish poet James Hogg.
Things started to come together after the westlin discovery. We focused on developing a plan to transform the Nave into a mixed use space that could accommodate many different types of events. We were guided by the value that churches are built in our communities to be places of gathering. While 901 Shawano has lost its purpose as a primarily religious gathering space, it is still in deed a place meant for gathering. We will host a variety of events that may be religious, secular, or otherwise. We felt that the humble description of Hall fit nicely to describe our place of gathering. Thus, Westlin Hall was born.
We have so many hopes and dreams for our newborn Westlin Hall. We know it will be a place of love, of welcoming, and community. We know there will be sadness, happiness, joy, and sorrow. These things are as much as a part of life as the air we breathe. With some new breath and life, Westlin Hall shall become something new and once again be a place where life happens. Hopefully, this humble old building will continue to serve our community as a gathering space, a wonder of inspiration, and a spiritual home for the many generations to come in this “westland” of Green Bay.