Thursday, May 26, 2005

Legion hall gets a refit

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (May 26, 2005): The bright blue landmark on Broadway is now a more gentle gray, though veterans are still hard at work fixing up the inside of the Stewart P. Morrill American Legion Post 35.

“We’re trying to really make this place viable for rentals,” said Post Commander Roger Sabourin, as he watched friends scrape and repaint kitchen cabinets and install a light fixture in the entryway.

The veterans group has spent nearly all of a $75,000 loan they got through a friendly loan officer – himself a Vietnam veteran – at Peoples Heritage Bank, insulating and residing the building, installing new windows, bringing in Internet access, fixing up ceilings and repainting walls in the building, which is also a South Portland polling place and a Red Cross emergency shelter.

Its bright blue color was created by accident, when an effort began to repaint the building blue rather than the previous olive-drab green, which had coated both the interior and exterior of the post.

The blue paint was not enough to cover the durable green hue, Sabourin said, and when the sun baked the colors together, it became the eye-catching (and eye-assaulting) almost-neon color familiar to many in the city.

The post’s meeting room, lined with the names and photos of veterans of wars past, was almost completely redone by the post’s oldest member, Clarence Howard, 85, including putting a new coat of paint on the extra-high ceiling.

Much of the money went to A-Best Window, which replaced all the building’s windows and re-sided it to improve energy efficiency.

“Before this thing, we were heating half of South Portland,” said Sabourin. Only half in jest, he said the post was responsible for local weather patterns. Looking out the windows at Mill Cove next to the Hannaford supermarket, Sabourin said, “you notice the bay froze over this year. We closed the windows.”

The post had owned the building outright, but now has to make monthly mortgage payments for the improvements, which will help keep maintenance costs down as well as make it more attractive as a rental space for groups to meet in.

There are three rooms that will be available for rent – two are complete now and work is about to begin on the third, mostly conducted by veterans themselves.

The building is also home to the U.S. Navy Sea Cadets program in South Portland, and the Portland Amateur Wireless Association.

It is now completely handicap-accessible, except for the small rooms on the third floor.

Sabourin had hoped the work would be done in time for Memorial Day, but now he is hoping it will be “July Fourth, or Veterans Day. We’ll get it done.”

He said the work is important to carry on the long history the city has of providing troops for the U.S. military, and helps to honor all who serve, including the four Medal of Honor winners he said are buried in the city’s cemeteries.

“South Portland has a great, great history of veterans,” Sabourin said.