Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

60 Onondaga Ave
San Francisco CA  94112

Phone: (510) 649-0941

Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

History of the Croatian American Cultural Center:

The Slavonic Mutual and Benevolent Society was founded in San Francisco in 1857 by Croatian immigrants, primarily from the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. Until 1975 the Society was based on fraternal membership, a type of organization with a long tradition among Croatians from Slavonia, Dalmatia, Istria, Croatia Proper, Hercegovina and Bosnia.

After 1975 membership was opened to women reflecting the cultural diversity and cultural interests of the larger San Francisco Bay Area community.

In 1979 the dream of a physical home was realized, and the Croatian American Cultural Center on Alemany Street opened its doors, as a center to share the rich cultural heritage Croatia. The scope of programs broadened and the Center has become an important gathering place for enthusiasts of Croatia and other Slavic music and dance, and recent immigrants as well as long time members.

For more than 150 years the SMBS/Croatian American Cultural Center of San Francisco has welcomed men and women from Croatia, and other Slavic regions and beyond.

It all started back in 1857 along the San Francisco Waterfront, where a community of immigrants from the Dalmatian coast had settled and established coffee houses, restaurants, saloons and produce stores. In fact, by 1875, at least fourty per cent of the coffee houses and twenty per cent of the restaurants on the Waterfront area were owned by men of Croatian-Dalmatian origin.

In 1857 the organization was formalized and opened its doors as the Slavonic Illyric Mutual and Benevolent Society, later shortened to the Slavonic Mutual and Benevolent Society, or SMBS. In these early days the purpose of the society was fraternal and benevolent, that is, it provided financial aid for those who needed it, a post office box for itinerant workers to send and receive mail, a graveyard plot, various kinds of insurance, and more important, a networking base for newcomers and old-timers to exchange business, homelife and social affairs information.

Such organizations were common during this time; there were a number of them right in San Francisco -- the Blato (Korcula) Club, the Brac Club, etc. , mostly organized around a particular region. The complexities of politics in the region made a mark on how these societies developed in the United States.

Through the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century, the Society played an important role in providing insurance and social contact when the need was great. But the world was changing and so were the SMBS members. These smart and industrious people prospered quickly in the United States and had less need for material benefits. Their children assimilated into local culture. The end of World War II brought another wave of immigration. And with the growth of government social services and other insurance in the United States, material help for the members became less necessary.

By 1965, membership had dwindled to 180, down from 650 members in the 1870s; attendance at meetings was twenty at the most. But those faithful members rallied together to realize a long time dream, a permanent home. This small group pooled their skills and their financial resources and many years of patient work, until the Croatian American Cultural Center opened its doors on March 24, 1979 on the corner of Alemany and Onondaga Avenues in San Francisco. The Center has become a focal point for the many cultural events and activities through the years.

While the building plans were proceeding, some members felt it was a good time to review and revise the mission. Adam Eterovich, who was been influential in the SMBS in innumerable ways, took the dramatic and controversial step of suggesting that women be allowed to join.

1975 was a big turning point when the by-laws were changed to admit women and people of other nationalities.Membership quickly jumped to 400 members. The Society clearly benefited from the new blood, new ideas, creativity and energy offered by the expanded membership.

Another major innovation was the formation of the Cultural Committee by Adam Eterovich and John Daley in 1985. Under John Daley's leadership the Croatian American Cultural Center has become a focal point in the San Francisco Bay Area for Slavic music, dance and culture, and has been recognized through major grants, awards and invitations to the performing groups sponsored by the Committee. Here are some of the projects sponsored by the Cultural Committee:

San Francisco Croatian Festival/San Francisco Tamburitza Festival - In the late 80s the Cultural Committee initiated two events which have become traditions at the Center, and bring together long time members with the general public in celebration. The Marko Polo Festival (now called the San Francisco Croatian Heritage Festival) is held each fall to celebrate Croatian heritage exemplified by the famous explorer Marko Polo, who was born on Korcula Island when it was under Venetian rule. Poklada (now called the San Francisco Tamburitza Festival) is the traditional Croatian Prelenten Carnival, held every President's Day weekend. Both events offer food and drink, music, participatory dancing, and performances. These two events are highlights for the Croatian community as well as the extended folk dance and music community in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Dalmacijo Singers, one of the groups existing under the umbrella of the Croatian American Cultural Center, have been delighting audiences since 1986. This choral ensemble has performed in various concerts, ethnic festivals, family gatherings, and Church of Nativity functions. With many of the member's family ties linking to the Dalmation Coast, their repertorie consists mostly of songs from different parts of Croatia. They fill out their repertoire with songs from other Slavic traditionss.

The Slavonian Traveling Band diverse sound and repertoire crosses all boundaries and speaks for tolerance and hope. The seven member ensemble, blends traditional Bosnian, Sephardic, Gypsy, Croatian, Macedonian, music with songs in the American folk tradition. Founded in 1986, the Slavonian Traveling Band performs throughout the San Francisco Bay Area as a tamburitza orchestra typical of the Balkan region. The Band also plays instruments found on the Dalmacian coast of Croatia, including the mandolin, mandola, and guitar. As the Band's repertoire features Macedonian and Romany (gypsy) music, they often include the sax, harmonica, and dumbek (drum).

Beyond the Borders - This series features master artists of traditional music who now live the the USA. A musical bridge built from Croatia to Greece that spans Bulgaria. This series makes the exotic scales and unusual rhythms easy for the American ear. Each concert features a different combination of master artist.

CroatianAmericanWeb - This website brings to an international audience a digest of all the activities of the Croatian American Cultural Center, as well as other aspects of the culture which are more suited to electronic format. This website is constantly changing. Please visit us frequently.

Oral histories - Men and women who are connected with the Croatian American Cultural Center share their stories and their songs in taped interviews conducted in 1999. These oral histories highlight the “up close and personal” stories of growing up Croatian American. When the interviewee has requested anonymity, a pseudonym is provided in quotes.

The Croatian American Cultural Center is based in San Francisco, California where a variety of cultural events take place.

The Croatian American Cultural Center invites you to enjoy and learn the diverse music and dance traditions indigenous to Croatia, central and eastern Europe, and the Balkans. The Center operates a 300 seat mulltidisciplinary cultural center where we pres

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Categories: Community Center, Community Organization, Concert Venue




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Past Events

Beyond Borders: Muhamed Kocan, Almir Hodzic, Alaturca Connection

Beyond Borders: Muhamed Kocan, Almir Hodzic, Alaturca Connection
03:00 pm - 05/06/2018

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

Hear Bosnian Sevdah music by Muhamed Kocan and Almir Hodzic, an accordionist extraordinaire from Prijedor, Bosnia and Herzegovina They will be accompanied by clarinetist...

Aurora Mandolin Orchestra at SF Mandolin Festival

Aurora Mandolin Orchestra at SF Mandolin Festival
01:00 pm - 04/22/2018

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

In late April the Croatian American Cultural Center hosts the San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins. For the past 18 years there has been a sit down concert in...

San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins

San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins
12:00 pm - 04/22/2018

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

Featured at the 18th Annual Festival are: Mandolin Virtuoso EVAN MARSHALL evanjmarshall.com/ NOCTAMBULE Irish and original music featuring mandolinist Marla Fibish noctambulemusic.com/ BISTRO...

Beyond the Borders: Danubius, Meraklii & Eszterlanc

Beyond the Borders: Danubius, Meraklii & Eszterlanc
03:00 pm - 03/18/2018

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

Music and dance from Bulgaria to Hungary and back. Danubius, Meraklii, and Eszterlánc Hungarian Folk Dance Ensemble. $10, $5 Adv, children free. Danubius - named...

Children's Celebration of Ethnic Dance 2018

Children's Celebration of Ethnic Dance 2018
02:00 pm - 03/11/2018

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

Help us celebrate this very special event. Five children's dance ensembles, whose communities have celebrated in festivals and music events at the Croatian American...

2018 San Francisco Tam Fest

2018 San Francisco Tam Fest
12:00 pm - 02/18/2018

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

Come enjoy music, dancing and food at the San Francisco Tamburitza festival on Sunday, February 18th. The headlining band will be Tamburaski Sastav Ponoć (Midnight)...

Beyond the Borders

Beyond the Borders
03:00 pm - 11/05/2017

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

Sidro, Ensemble Merkalii and Antika Bulgaria, three culturally significant Bay Area performing groups, appear on the Beyond the Borders stage. Tickets: $10, $5 Adv,...

San Francisco Croatian Heritage Festival

San Francisco Croatian Heritage Festival
12:00 pm - 10/15/2017

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

Tamburitza music and kolos will be featured this year by the Croatian community in San Francisco. Sinovi Tamburitza Orchestra of Seattle will perform throughout...

San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins

San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins
11:00 am - 04/23/2017

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

In late April the Croatian American Cultural Center hosts the San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins. For the past 17 years there has been a sit down concert in...

A Tribute to Esma

A Tribute to Esma
07:30 pm - 03/17/2017

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

Tickets available at door $15. Beyond the Borders invites you to a tribute and celebration of Esma's music. Known as the Queen of Romany music and born in Skopje,...

Children's Celebration of Ethnic Dance 2017

Children's Celebration of Ethnic Dance 2017
02:00 pm - 03/12/2017

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

Help us celebrate this very special event! Children's dance ensembles, whose communities have celebrated in festivals and music events at the Croatian American Cultural...

San Francisco Tamburitza Festival

San Francisco Tamburitza Festival
12:00 pm - 02/19/2017

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

For almost 20 years the Croatian American Cultural Center has annually showcased the best tamburitza music in California and presented nationally renowned tamburitza...

Sounds of Sevdah

Sounds of Sevdah
02:00 pm - 11/13/2016

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

Sevdah singers Muhamed Kocan, Hajrudin Hajric, and Rasima Alisic Klisturic are accompanied by the Slavonian Traveling Band, Lilla Serlegi, and John Morovich. Mladost...

San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins

San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins
11:00 am - 04/24/2016

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

In late April the Croatian American Cultural Center hosts the San Francisco Festival of the Mandolins. For the past 16 years there has been a sit down concert in...

Children's Celebration of Ethnic Dance 2016

Children's Celebration of Ethnic Dance 2016
02:00 pm - 03/13/2016

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

Help us celebrate this very special event. Seven children's dance ensembles, whose communities have celebrated in festivals and music events at the Croatian American...

San Francisco Tamburitsa Festival: Concert, Kolos, Sing-a-Long

San Francisco Tamburitsa Festival: Concert, Kolos, Sing-a-Long
12:00 pm - 02/14/2016

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

Enjoy two days of music and dance. Celebrate St. Valentine's weekend with us. Come enjoy the music, dancing and food at the San Francisco Tamburitza festival on...

San Francisco Tamburitza Festival - Welcome Dance

San Francisco Tamburitza Festival - Welcome Dance
07:30 pm - 02/13/2016

At Croatian American Cultural Center - San Francisco

2 Days of Music! Purchase tickets at the door or online. Feb 13th - Welcome Dance 7:30PM Feb 14th - Concert, Kolos, Sing-aLong 12PM-8PM Enjoy two days of music...

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