Greenport residents Diane Walden and Renee Carey couldn’t help but step back into the past as they looked around the village’s American Legion Burton Potter Post 185 hall.
“Once you’re in here, the memories just start flooding back,” said Walden, 75, a longtime resident.
The 1953 building on Third Street was once a linchpin of the village’s social life, Carey said. But the building fell into disrepair over the years, especially after superstorm Sandy, when flooding damaged the floors.
Volunteers from the Greenport Legion have been working for several years to renovate the building, and now they are nearing their goal.
Volunteers said they are roughly 75 percent done with repairs, having raised about $600,000 in donations to fix the roofs, windows, doors, electrical and plumbing components and to install a new air conditioning system. They need between $250,000 and $300,000 to finish the repairs, said legion member and volunteer Fred Schoenstein, 60, of Greenport.
Schoenstein said the legion hopes the building will be at least functional this fall for residents to use while they finish repairing the rest of the facility.
“A lot of people have been walking in while we’re working and saying, ‘Oh, my God, my parents had their wedding here’ and things like that,” he said. “You hear a lot of stories of people who live here and people reminiscing.”
Rob Staron, 70, secretary and treasurer of the Greenport Legion, fondly remembers being surprised by how many well-wishers turned up to his wedding in the hall in the 1970s.
“By the time word of mouth finished, there were 300 people here,” he chuckled.
Chatty Allen, 56, a lifelong Greenport resident, said her two young children were particularly excited to roller skate inside the building after hearing stories about it serving as a rink in its glory days.
“They keep asking, ‘When is the skating rink going to open?’” said Allen. “These are kids that have no idea what it was like to skate here. They weren’t born when this was closed down, yet they know what it was like from the different generations that talked about it. That’s why this is going to be a huge asset to this village.”