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Legion finishes facelift alfresco

Debbie Griffin photo

The bright-blue bricks of the American Legion building at 1207 N. Main St. gave way this fall to a dramatically different exterior look.

Minus a few finishing touches like outdoor benches and landscaping to come in spring, Legion Commander Ed Miller and member Neil Anderson say the outside remodel is complete.

Crews installed the electronic sign last Wednesday. Last Thursday marked the switching on of the exterior lights that Anderson says will give the building a "presence" at night.

Miller said several people have asked him if the Legion expanded, but no, it didn't.

The angled roof makes the building look bigger since the former flat roof could not be seen. The leaky old roof is what led to the Legion Hall's 'extreme makeover.'

Natural-colored stucco replaced the memorable blue bricks, and gone are the old glass-block-style windows.

The modern glass lets in much more natural light and enables people inside the hall to look out at Main Street and vice versa.

Anderson said the double glass doors at the entrance are the same as before: "That is one of the good structural bones that was here," adding that the building had many good basics with which to work.

Neighboring business Greenskeepers, through its holiday-lights franchise company, donated and affixed Christmas lights last month and committed to rehabilitating the Legion's lawn next season.

Master gardeners have volunteered to help install flowers and plants in the landscaped areas of the Legion's front yard.

The lone flagpole became a five-flagpole arrangement, soon to have a permanent light.

Miller explains that one of the flagpoles holds two flags: United States and POW. Each of the other poles holds one flag: Wisconsin, the Legion, the Legion Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion.

Miller and Anderson said members use a laptop to prepare messages for the new, electronic, changeable sign.

On Friday, Miller discussed with a few members how often they should change the messages and the appropriate duration for each.

Shortly after the new sign was functional, Legion members programmed it to repeat a message every 10 minutes honoring deceased veteran Roy Forehand, plus moved the flag to half-staff.

Also on the front lawn are a stamped-concrete patio and several new trees.

Miller said the tall evergreens on the north end of the lawn will provide a photo backdrop with enough room for an eight-person wedding party.

The men say an arbor is also planned for the tree-lined area.

Anderson said he thinks it's neat that the Legion isn't a for-profit business, but is a longstanding organization fulfilling a need and acting as a community partner.

Legion infusion

Miller says the material changes seem to have energized the membership.

Anderson, who designed the building improvements, said, "It's been a paradigm shift."

Everyone agreed at the project's beginning to set the standards high, and the improvement project has created a buzz of activity at the 1955-built "hall."

Miller said the community's generosity has been overwhelming -- members, their families and friends and many other people stepping forward with various forms of support.

He said the project planners are brainstorming about how they can possibly thank them all.

One member interjects that the Nov. 17 Red Cross blood drive collected a record- breaking number 127 pints. Bingo grows more popular, and it seems like more people come to chicken-fry fundraisers and other events than ever.

Miller said he is encouraged to see general membership increasing, as well as the number of very-active members growing.

He and Anderson say Legion members welcome all the support they can get. The Legion offers sponsorship of the outdoor benches to come; people could sponsor a tree, which would then have a memorial plaque; and supporters could buy an inscribed paver for the landscaped area.

Anderson said, "People have stepped up and paid for the flagpoles."

The men envision the possibility of sponsored barstools personalized with a name. After that member passes away, their family could have the barstool and another person could personalize one.

Miller said about the inside part of the remodel, "There's a committee working on each area."

Legion members are just beginning to measure spaces and sketch designs but intend for the project to include all areas inside the hall.

They say the plan is to leave the main areas of the building neutral and give the lounge and history room a military theme. There's been talk of a lounge-naming contest, too.

They say the work will not interfere with any planned activities or bookings. The goal is to have the inside projects finished before River Falls Days, but it's too early to predict if that will happen.

Miller said up and down the street, people are enthusiastically approving of the changes.

Anderson is pleased to see part of the vision accomplished and said, "I think it's an asset to have a good, strong Legion in the community."