Knights of Columbus members, Richard Parez, 83, and Tom Aloisi,...

Knights of Columbus members, Richard Parez, 83, and Tom Aloisi, 87, stand outside the club at North Broadway in Lindenhurst. Credit: Linda Rosier

A Lindenhurst organization is breathing new life into a long-vacant building that for decades was a community symbol of American patriotism.

The Suffolk County Legislature earlier this month voted to place the World War Veterans Club building into the county’s historic trust and enter into a lease agreement with The Knights of Columbus Council No. 794. The Knights have agreed to renovate the building and create a display of club artifacts and other military service memorabilia. The group plans to use the building for its meetings and events.

“We’re going to start working as quickly as we can to get it in the condition where we can use it,” said Steve Strigaro, grand knight of the organization, who said many members are veterans. He said they hope to have school and veterans groups come to see the display and “learn about the role Lindenhurst played in World War I.”

Knights of Columbus member Tom Romano in one of the...

Knights of Columbus member Tom Romano in one of the rooms on the main floor of the World War Veterans Club on Monday. Credit: Linda Rosier

The white stuccoed building on North Broadway with the castle-like parapet was built in 1927 and has been vacant for almost 20 years. Just off the main meeting room, large paint chips litter the floor and rusty folding chairs await stacked against a wall. Downstairs, the austere knotty pine wood paneling and regal leather chairs are draped by a vine that has reached in from outside and cobwebs entangle a lone ashtray on the bar.

The building may need some work, said town historian Mary Cascone, but “the history of this club is an important one to the community.”

Marion Schomberg, left, Ken Miller, Elsie Warta, George Schomberg and...

Marion Schomberg, left, Ken Miller, Elsie Warta, George Schomberg and Pete Hurry at the World War Veterans Club in the 1950s. Credit: Town of Babylon historian Mary Cascone

The World War Veterans Club took shape just after World War I. The village had 102 residents serve in the war and three who died while serving. Lindenhurst, with a large German population, was striving to distance itself from the motherland, which was the U.S. enemy in the war, Cascone said.

“I think it was a reflection of the idea of ‘we’re going to prove ourselves as Americans so we’re going to go fight and send our sons to fight,’ ” she said.

In 1919, a year after the war ended, 38 veterans formed the group that met at various locations until buying the land for $500 and constructing the roughly 2,400-square-foot building. By the 1950s there were more than 200 members, said Charlie Tanner, 92, who said he is one of only three remaining members.

“All of the members I knew, they were my close friends,” said Tanner, a World War II and Korean War Marine Corps veteran. “It was like a little social club.”

The group participated in parades and held events at the building, Tanner said. But the club’s numbers began to drop, he said, in part because they required members to be only veterans of World Wars I and II.

Knights of Columbus member and Korean War veteran Tom Aloisi looks over...

Knights of Columbus member and Korean War veteran Tom Aloisi looks over some material left in the building at 185 North Broadway in Lindenhurst, the site of the World War Veterans Club. Credit: Linda Rosier

The club sold the building to the county in 2000 for $50,000 and the county then sold it to the town for $5 in 2003, with the stipulation that the town create a veterans museum. Busy with other projects, the town only did basic upkeep, Cascone said.  

While some groups were interested in the building, none had money to bring it up to ADA accessibility standards. The Knights approached the town several years ago after they sold their building because of rising property taxes.

Tanner, who said the remaining members continued to meet monthly at a local diner until last November, is happy the building is being saved.

“It’s a good thing what they’re doing,” he said. “When people get in there and see the artifacts, I think they’ll be very interested.”

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