Historic American Legion Post under renovation

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A historic building was literally falling apart ... until now.

The American Legion Post 37 is undergoing massive renovations.

Originally a home built in 1904, the building sits in a prime spot on the St. Augustine bayfront.

However, it was neglected for decades, which led to massive amounts of rot in the ceilings and walls.

Now, a group called Forward March, Inc. is raising money and renovating the building.

It will stay an American Legion but it will also have receptions areas and meeting rooms with beautiful views of the Bridge of Lions and the bayfront.

It's a 450th legacy project, just in time for the St. Augustine's 450th birthday celebrations.

Ron and Nancy Birchall are leading the charge, helping to fundraise and oversee the renovations.

"We want it to be the perfect spot for the dissemination of military information for the 450th and beyond, for future generations," Ron Birchall said. "We're not just doing this for the 450th."

Chris Forrest is the contractor and designer for the project. He said the rot resulted from decades of neglect.

The building was first home to Charles Hamblen of Hamblen Hardware. Construction started in 1898 and was complete in 1904.

Birchall explained that over the years it was a boarding house, a YMCA, and even a USO that entertained the troops.

"The coast guard trained at the Ponce de Leon Hotel, which is now Flagler College and they'd come over here and use the facility," Ron Birchall said.

The American Legion rented the building in from the Hamblen Trust, but Nancy Birchall noted, "I don't think much has been done to this building since the 1940s."

The $2 million project still needs funding, and the organizers hope the project will be complete in a year.

The American Legion is still open even while renovations take place, and it's open to the public.

For more information on the project, click here on the Forward March website.

----To connect with Jessica Clark, follow her on Twitter at @JessicaFCN or Like her on Facebook.


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