Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Building Detective: American Legion Post Home

The home of Carl L. Caviness American Legion Post No. 102, added to the National Register of Historic Places during 2006, was constructed to a design by Chariton architect William L. Perkins during the years 1924-1926.

Approximately 500 young men from Lucas County has served in the military during World War I, which ended with the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918. During the early summer of 1919, after most surviving veterans had returned home, several of them began to talk of organizing a Chariton post of the newly-formed American Legion. After public meetings, an application for a charter was submitted to the state Legion organization during July. That charter arrived in Chariton on July 17.

There had been no debate about who the the new post would be named after --- Corporal Carl L. Caviness (left), killed by a sniper in France on May 20, 1918, at the age of 21, the first Lucas Countyan to die in combat. At the time the post was formed, the young soldier's body still was buried in France. It would not return home to Chariton until 1921.

The Legionnaires began to plan acquisition of a post home soon after they organized and fund-raising commenced during 1919, too. Among the earliest donations were a purebred Duroc gilt from H.S. Allen, sold at public auction for $75, and $100 from the treasury of the Womens Christian Temperance Union.

Durng 1920, the Legion agreed to purchase this old house from the 1860s at the intersection of South Main Street and Linden Avenue from Gene Holmberg for $2,750 plus payment of 1920 taxes. The post took possession of the house on Armistice Day 1920 and immediately began to repair and improve it.

The long-term goal was to replace the old house with a suitable "memorial building." During 1923, Chariton architect William L. Perkins drew up plans at no charge for the current post home and the old house was sold for $70 and moved off the site.

Serious fund-raising (the intial goal was $18,000) commenced during 1924 and excavation work began during the fall of that year with Legionnaires and other volunteers doing much of the "rough" work. The cornerstone was set into place on Oct. 19, 1924, and before winter the building was "under cover."

The Legion post met for the first time in the building --- on the unfinished ground-floor level around a table made from scrap lumber and supported by kegs --- on Feb. 2, 1925. Work on the building continued during 1925 and was completed during 1926, the year of its dedication.

The American Legion became one of Chariton's most active and influential organizations during the 1920s and 1930s and when World War II ended, opened itself to a new generation of younger veterans.

It became clear that the new generation of veterans wanted a place to socialize and so on Feb. 3, 1947, the post authorized construction of the "Quonset Hut club." Added to the west side of the existing building and given a clay tile facade, the club room opened later that year with the strict provision that alcoholic beverages would be served and gambling would be permitted only in the club room.

Although membership declined as the World War II and Korean War generations aged, the post remains active and during 2010 celebrated restoration and enhancement of the club, restoring and stabilizing the structure, refinishing its interior and installing a new kitchen and restrooms.

The 1920s block remains structurally sound, but in need of restoration and enhancement --- when funding becomes available.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonder where the house was moved to? Judy