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Remembering a long gone landmark
In January 1969 it snowed in Forks, it snowed a lot. It snowed so much that it eventually took months for all the piles of plowed snow to melt. In addition to school closures it caused property damage, by the time the rains in February arrived to wash the snow away one of Forks’ largest publicly available buildings was a total loss.
The American Legion Hall almost never happened. In 1933 a charter was issued for the creation of Forks’ American Legion Post No. 106. By March 1934, plans were under way to raise funds to build a building. The first fundraising attempt was a disaster.
The post actually lost money; the locals just couldn’t seem to afford to buy tickets. After going in the hole Legion members were ready to give up. Luckily, their dream was saved when local merchants agreed to raise the money to buy a building site for the proposed hall.
William Hendricks had a lot for sale that faced Forks Avenue, the Tesoro gas station site today; he was asking $250. Hendricks, a Legion member himself, reduced the price by $25 and a deal was struck. William Collings designed the building and served as “building boss.” The estimated cost was $9,000.
Members cleared and graded the site.
The Legion’s auxiliary members served meals to those working so they would not have to stop work and go home to eat. Fundraising continued with dances and money was borrowed from post members. Most members were loggers; many did private logging on the weekend and exchanged the logs at local mills for lumber to be used for rafters and other building materials.
Bloedel-Donovan Lumber donated 35,000 board feet of logs which were taken to a local mill on a 50/50 cut out basis. A proposition also was made to the Forks Shingle Company to haul in twice as many logs as would be needed to roof and side the new Legion Hall and the mill could keep the other half as payment.
The mill accepted the deal; it took 12,600 square feet of shingles just to cover the roof.
In August 1935 the Post borrowed $1,500 from the Port Angeles First National Bank to help purchase fir and maple flooring, wiring, plywood, doors and windows.
On November 9, 1935, a dance was held in the completed dance hall portion of the building, netting a profit of $207.60.
The official Legion Hall dedication ceremony took place Dec. 7, 1935.
Finally the hall was finished, a project that was continually plagued by unforeseen expenditures, at times lack of cooperation from discouraged members and an uncertain economy.
When completed the Legion Hall looked like any other building from the street but the feature that made the building unusual was the large room in the back that was circular with a huge log used in the center as support. Through the years the Legion Hall hosted dances, roller skating, banquets, weddings, auxiliary drill team practices and Fourth of July celebrations.
After 34 years of service, three weeks of January snow and two hours of rain on February 1, 1969, added up to the end of the Forks landmark — the roof caved in sometime during that night.
The building was not insured, the 1935 $9,000 price tag was estimated to be $50,000 in 1969, and the Post was never rebuilt.
The Legion hall has been gone now longer than it existed. But its memory serves as a reminder of how a group of people came together despite many obstacles, and using ingenuity and cooperation, created something that benefited the community of Forks for many years.