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Greenport celebrates the return of beloved American Legion hall

After nearly $1 million of repairs, the Burton Potter Post 185 reopened on New Year’s Eve and will once again host skating, dancing and other special events, as it did in 1953.

The American Legion Burton Potter Post 185 at

The American Legion Burton Potter Post 185 at 121 Third St. in Greenport on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

The American Legion Burton Potter Post 185 hall in Greenport had seen better days, decades of them since 1953. It was a community gathering spot for generations of residents before falling into disrepair over the years and sustaining further damage during superstorm Sandy in 2012. Years of fundraising and months of repairs were needed to reopen it to the public.

On Dec. 31, the hall on Third Street again welcomed the community with a special party that drew about 200 people. “A huge success,” said the hall’s manager Mindy Ryan.

Repairs cost between $850,000 and $900,000 and were funded through private donations, contributions from local businesses and fundraisers, according to Butch Corwin, vice commander for the post. Those who celebrated its revival probably would not put a price tag on the legion hall’s importance in their lives:

GLORY DAYS

The legion hall is where residents came in the 1960s and ’70s to learn how to roller skate, hang out with friends, spend time with their loved ones or watch concerts and World Wrestling Entertainment matches. At one point, it was the largest public facility on the North Fork.

MEMORIES

Barbara Ebeling of Southold

“We had friends who used to come up to the legion and skate all day, so it was always the place to go.”

Ebeling, 72, skated there many times as a child and said her late father, Frank “Sparky” Coyle, often volunteered to dress up as Santa Claus to entertain the children, including his granddaughter, Jennifer Ebeling.

Robert Mills of East Marion

“To me, it’s a little taste of old-time Greenport. The village has changed so much since I was a child, from a working seaport town to a tourist town, so to me, it was a little taste of the old days.”

Mills, 59, a sailmaker, said his late father and legion member Bill Mills often played cards in the hall’s meeting room. As a child, Mills skated at the hall and attended Boy Scout meetings. He watched his own children, Mariah Mills and Bob Mills III, learn to skate there.

Greenport Mayor George Hubbard

The legion hall was “a fun place, with all kinds of good things that happened there. I’m really glad it’s coming back. It looks really great.”

HARD TIMES

The legion hall fell into disrepair over time and was particularly hard hit by superstorm Sandy in 2012, which severely damaged the hall’s floors.

BACK IN BUSINESS

Legion hall manager Mindy Ryan called the New Year’s Eve reopening “a huge success” and added that people who don’t usually go out on New Year’s Eve attended the opening “because the Greenport American Legion means so much to them.”

“It was a very cool event, a good time,” said Robert Mills, who came to the reopening with almost a dozen friends.

FUTURE

Butch Corwin, vice commander for the post

“It’s amazing how the outpouring of people [looking to save the legion]came together.”

Legion officials are advertising skating and special events such as dances. A Valentine’s Day dinner dance is advertised on the website, and the legion hall can also be booked for special events.

Back in the limelight

  • In its prime, the legion hall was the largest public facility on the North Fork, with a seating capacity of as many as 1,200.
  • Residents credit former Greenport resident and legion hall member George Costello for getting behind the drive to raise funding to repair the hall. Costello died Dec. 28, 2012, at the age of 63.
  • Legion officials said the roller skating rink is still under construction but is expected to be completed soon.
  • More information on the hall’s events can be found at its website: greenportamericanlegion.org.

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