By Derek Sawvell
Managing Editor, Advocate News
By the fall of this year, two buildings along Fifth Street in Durant will become one as renovations are set to begin courtesy of the Lt. J.L. Shryer American Legion Post 430.
Renovations include removing the older of the two structures, the west building, filling in the basement underneath it, and replacing it with a new building to feature a bar, bathrooms and kitchen area. The east building will be attached to the new building with direct access to the new bar and kitchen. A new roof and front facing will then be added so that the two former structures will each be under one roof.
The Durant Legion is looking to raise $175,000 for the project. According to former commander Dick Stoltenberg and the rest of the building committee including Jim Walker, Ken Huesmann and Dennis Juchter, more than $40,000 has been raised as of early May, with most donations coming from the 264 Legion members, 72 Sons of the America Legion and more than 80 Auxiliary members.
The Legion has also been setting aside funds to help with the project. “We’ll go to the bank for the rest if needed, just like anyone else,” said Stoltenberg.
Tri County Builders of Tipton is the contractor on the project and demolition of the original post building is set to start soon.
The west (original) building was originally Farmers Savings Bank, built in 1904. The bank closed in 1935 and the Legion purchased the structure in 1946 and did some remodeling in order to meet its needs. The bank had a basement but an addition was added to the back for a basement kitchen and first-floor storage and fish fry room.
The current Legion building to the east was built in the early 1970s and was rented to the state of Iowa for use as a liquor store, which helped it pay for itself. After the state ceased its liquor sales, the Legion began using it as a post, with a bar and meeting room downstairs, with connection to the kitchen in the west building.
Having gatherings and the annual fish fry in the downstairs of the east building presents a challenge for many members and community members, which can limit attendance. The renovations will allow for events to happen on the main level once the buildings are joined with doorways allowing access to both main floor areas at all times during events. The current basement bar and room will remain for community gatherings
“We wanted to move our events upstairs,” said Stoltenberg. “We want to be accessible to the community. And nothing had been done to that old building for years. We’re trying to be good citizens of the town. We’ll make it look nicer and maybe some of our younger veterans will see that we’re a post that’s doing something.”
Now is the time, according to the committee, as both facilities, especially the former bank, are in need of repair. The roofs of both are in need of replacement, as water leakage has damaged portions of both structures. The mortar on the south and west side of the west building is also crumbling and in need of repair or replacement.
The building began its fundraising campaign in January and the drive is ongoing, as presented by a meter on the front door of the east building (pictured).
The Legion “has been a place for all to come for meetings, dances, food, fun and more … Post 430 wants to ensure that your building continues the vital role it offers Durant and the surrounding community,” said Commander Ken Rochholz in a letter to members sent in December 2019.