By: Katherine Trowbridge
For those who have been following the fundraising efforts to save the American Legion Building in downtown Connell following the loss of its roof to a wind storm on April 1, some significant happenings have taken place this week. In a meeting held Wednesday, June 21, the Legion members voted to give the building to the North Franklin Heritage Museum. As the legion has been struggling for several years, and, even with fundraising efforts, does not have the funds necessary to make repairs nor maintain the building going forward. While the building is currently condemned, the museums goal is to restore the building to its former glory and make it a place where the community and guests can enjoy it's historic charm. Museum members shared that the Legion Members would still have a space within the building.
Shelly Harper, Executive Director of the N. Franklin Heritage Museum said, "We have acquired the historical bank property in Connell, Washington from the American Legion Post 195 and will be transforming it into a boutique hotel, restaurant, and meeting space named C Street Vault which will embrace the town's rich heritage while offering a unique and memorable guest experience."
The museum's mission is to preserve and celebrate the historical landmark while creating exceptional hospitality experiences that captivate guests. "We aim to revive the Jesse L. Colley American Legion Post 195 building which was originally built as the Franklin County Bank by Connell's founder F.D. Mottet," Harper shared, "We plan to enhance our local community's visitor options and promote historic preservation through the transformation of this wonderful property."
Their vision is to blend modern comfort with the buildings historical significance to create a destination that attracts leisure and business travelers seeking an authentic and personalized experience. The centerpiece of the project is the meticulous renovation of the historical bank and American Legion building, ensuring the preservation of its architectural integrity.
The properties roof will be replaced (with help of funds raised for the project), and necessary structural improvements will be made to ensure its longevity. The upper floors will be transformed into at least four boutique hotel suites, each carefully designed to showcase a unique blend of contemporary comfort and historical charm. The first floor will house a vibrant lobby, meeting space for the American Legion, restaurant space, and potential spaces for retail tenants. The plan for the restaurant is to offer, at the very minimum, Sunday brunches. Hotel suites and certain rooms will be named after local Veterans.
"In addition to the commercial viability of the project, we are committed to making a positive impact on the local community. By reviving the American Legion Post 195, we aim to create a space that fosters camaraderie among veterans and offers support to local servicemen and service women. Furthermore, proceeds will be contributed to the North Franklin Heritage Museum and a portion allocated to fund other community-driven historical preservation projects," Harper added, "We are confident that our commitment to preserving history, providing exceptional service, and embracing the local community will ensure the long-term success of this venture."
The museum is seeking cash donation, building materials, and labor donations to support the properties renovations, operational setup, and startup capital. Any contribution is greatly appreciated. All donations are tax deductible through the North Franklin Heritage Museum's 501c3. A wall of donors will be located within the building for everyone who enters to see.
Donations may be made to: North Franklin Heritage Museum PO Box 1185 Connell, WA. 99326 or via Venmo @ConnellHeritageMuseum. To find out more or to help with the project contact Shelly Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org or (509)392-9594.
More history on the building: The banks original wood structure opened as Franklin Counties first bank in 1902 and was rebuilt as a brick structure in 1906. After the bank closed in the 1920's, it had several tenants over the years including Morgan's Hotel and Cafe, Rogers Hotel, Sunland Hotel, and Luckey's Grocery Store. The American Legion started there in 1946.