Legion raises roof to begin renovation; goodbye blue bricks, hello new lookAfter the third leak last winter on the flat-roofed American Legion Post 121 building at 710 N. Main St., members decided to put on a new one.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
After the third leak last winter on the flat-roofed American Legion Post 121 building at 710 N. Main St., members decided to put on a new one.
That led to an ambitious project they hope will result in a completely renovated “Fletcher-Pechacek” post.
Legion Commander Ed Miller and local designer and construction expert Neil Anderson said last week the original structure was built in 1955 then had three additions at various times.
As they dug in for the big roof project, they found outdated mechanical equipment, places that had no insulation and other glitches.
Miller said, “We ran into a lot more unknowns than we thought.”
But some of the ‘knowns’ steered everyone to a unanimous vote of the membership that “it’s time” for a major renovation.
The men say the project began with a good-sign blessing: A week of good weather just as roof materials arrived.
Membership is up -- especially with many veterans returning from war -- to 380 people.
Many members, as well and their sons and supporters have stepped up to offer services, materials, time on a project committee, financial support…
Anderson worked closely with Miller on the renowned Veterans Memorial in Greenwood Cemetery. He offered to again donate design and general-contractor services for this project.
Educated as an architect, Anderson has 40 years of experience in design and construction; he and a professional partner work from Neil Anderson and Associates on Main Street.
Miller says the bingo fundraisers, which started last fall and begin again soon, are going well -- as are other fundraising efforts like chicken-fry dinners and golf.
Anderson said, “It’s a physical renovation but also a philosophical change.”
Miller and the members recognize that the hall needs to cater to a whole new generation of people, from veterans of all ages to the general public who need it for wedding receptions, reunions and other events.
“It had to be a priority,” he said about the upgrade.
The two say they don’t yet know how much everything will cost but say it is estimated in the range of $150,000-$200,000, depending upon the repairs necessary and future design of the interior.
There are many details of the project still developing, plus the Legion doesn’t yet know how much support the project may elicit. However, everyone agreed to work toward a complete renovation -- from curb to curb and foundation to roof.
Plans march forward
Miller said the project timeline calls for finishing the roof and all external improvements before the snow flies this year. He thinks the inside work will continue through winter and probably be finished by next fall.
Most passersby probably noticed workers on top of the building this week and last, installing its new hip-style roof. Miller confirms that the landmark-blue exterior bricks will give way to stucco.
When asked what color, he and Anderson say that hasn’t been decided yet. Miller said he’s pretty sure -- no offense to anyone who likes it now -- it “won’t be blue.”
Anderson says the outdoor portion of the project will also include trees on the front lawn to replace ones that used to live there, a patio, new entrances, replacement windows, and an electronic sign to be placed where the wooden one sits now.
Miller said the sign will help the Legion keep everyone informed of its activities and fundraisers. He emphasizes that the hall will be conducting business as usual, working the project around all scheduled activities.
He said committees will determine the details of interior renovation, but the intent is to redo and modernize the bar, banquet room, bathrooms and kitchen plus create a combination office-history room. The Legion hall has a 324-person capacity and hosted 276 people on its biggest-yet bingo night.
Anderson and Miller agree that is where the philosophy enters the picture.
Miller said, “We want to have a nice modern facility for people.”
Anderson said, “We want to project to the public a positive, strong, Legion.”
Not only does the hall exist to serve its members, veterans and the community, it sits in a high-profile location amid redevelopment and new development. The project partners name many buildings in the area either new or remodeled: A drug store, a gas station, two retail stores, a child-care center, the redone industrial center…
The men say it’s a goal to improve the amenities available to the community including the Legion’s commercially licensed kitchen, bar and activity space.
The two say the Legion encourages and welcomes all the community support it can get. People can directly support the project and/or come to the various fundraisers throughout the year.
Anderson said it’s nice to work with “Ed” again on a project to benefit veterans. He said the project feels right, and he considers it a great opportunity -- the kind that doesn’t come along often.
Asked about the different things the Legion does, Miller presents a long list: Sponsors a baseball team; visits veterans; supports Boy Scouts; helps needy families; performs honor guard at funerals, parades and Memorial Day; sponsors of-the-year awards for firefighters, EMTs and police officers; serves Thanksgiving Dinner to area veterans; supports families of the deployed; and funds many youth-education scholarships and activities.
To learn more about the renovation project, get involved with it or donate to it, call Miller at 715-377-5028 or Anderson at 715-425-7511. Learn more about the local Legion at its website: americanlegionpost121.org