Port Townsend American Legion raising money to upgrade facilities

Film festival organizers leading effort for $54,000

PORT TOWNSEND — A fundraising effort is underway to upgrade the Port Townsend American Legion’s 78-year-old USO Dance Hall.

The renovation, which is estimated to cost $54,000, will include better insulation, permanent sound-proofing and fresh paint.

Port Townsend Film Festival (PTTF), which rents the hall at 209 Monroe St., each year, is leading the effort as the American Legion attempts to reach its goal before July 4.

100th birthday

“We thought this would be the perfect gift to give to the legion for their 100th birthday,” PTFF executive director Janette Force said.

“The least we can do for the Legion is rally the community to donate for this upgrade, which will benefit everyone.”

The American Legion was founded in 1918 in the wake of World War I.

It will celebrate its 100th anniversary in August.

The USO Dance Hall was built in just two months in 1941 for soldiers to enjoy before and after fighting in World War II and has stood ever since.

It was built without insulation and contains high ceilings, no windows and wood floors, causing the hall to heat up in summer and be cold during the winter, said Jan Halliday, the director of development, marketing and communication for the PTFF.

The ceiling and floors also make sound bounce around the room, which Halliday describes as “deafening” when the hall is filled with people.

During the film festival, a temporary sound solution was found.

“We figured out a way to mitigate the echo by stringing up black, fire-proofed padded blankets, wall to wall, for the three-day festival,” Force said.

That worked for a dark theater and is considered a “Plan B” if the fundraising effort isn’t successful. The goal is to have soundproofing that appeals to all events, from dances to movies to weddings, Force said.

Film festival organizers are discussing donating $23,000 of their own funds, Force said.

“We are willing to risk our financial necks for this,” she said. “The festival’s ultimate goal is to play well with others, and we do whatever we can to build and nurture community.”

To donate to the project, go to www.ptfilmfest.com or call 360-379-1333. If donations are made to honor a family member or friend who served in the military, film festival organizers and those at the American Legion would like to be informed so the person can be publicly acknowledged.

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Reporter Zachary Jablonski can be reached at [email protected].

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