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Spruced-up pavilion again a popular venue

Gainesville spent $25K to renovate century-old American Legion facility

POSTED: September 7, 2013 11:58 p.m.

It’s been almost six months since restorations were completed on the American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7’s Chattahoochee Park Pavilion and local interest has exceeded expectations.

“We had almost no interest in (renting) the pavilion before the renovations,” said Dave Dellinger, senior vice commander for the post. “I thought interest would rise after we had a few events but then weddings started happening, which really surprised me.”

The pavilion, which sits on the banks of Lake Lanier, is more than 100 years old and its restoration has been a major focus of the Legion in the past year.

In 2012, Gainesville City Council voted to spend $25,000 on building materials for the site and it was renovated by Hall County Correctional Institute inmates. In return, the post agreed to allow the city to use the pavilion for various functions.

In addition, the Legion planned to rent out the pavilion themselves for special events such as weddings, veteran’s functions and family reunions. This month, there are two weddings scheduled to take place at the location and two more scheduled for next month.

“Reaction has absolutely been positive to it,” Dellinger said. “There is something scheduled for every Saturday in September and October.”

The pavilion itself was built sometime in the early 1900s as part of the Chattahoochee Park amusement park, which was located next to what was then Lake Warner. An electric streetcar connected the park to downtown Gainesville.

Georgia Power bought the park in 1923 and used it as an employee retreat until 1955. When Lake Lanier was created a few years later, most of the park’s buildings were submerged, leaving behind just the pavilion.

The American Legion purchased the pavilion from Georgia Power shortly afterward and has operated it ever since. As the years passed by, interest in the facility fell off and it slowly slipped into disrepair.

“It was in pretty bad condition,” Dellinger said. “There was nothing under the shingles and so rain water was leaking through, which rotted some of the boards. All of the outside support posts were rotted halfway up and several were completely rotted.

“If you grabbed the post, you could shake the whole building.”

In 2012, The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation listed the pavilion in it’s top 10 “places in peril,” citing “a large amount of rotting timbers that are in need of repair and replacing.”

The repairs replaced the rotten boards and supports, fixed the supports to a steel footing to prevent future rotting and added bathrooms. The legion retained as much of the original materials as possible, including most of the railings and their supports, Dellinger said.

The work isn’t over yet, however.

Much of the surrounding area is in need of attention, including the access road and parking area. Last spring, vandals stole the grills and sinks out of their stone settings in a nearby barbecue area.

“The first priority is to get some gravel for around the pavilion, the access road and the parking area,” Legion post commander Ron Kellner said. “We also would like to replace those grills and have some shrubbery around there to spruce it up some.

“But all of those things take money and manpower and most of us are limited on what we can do.”

The Legion hopes to spread the word about the location and recently held a open house for event planners to show it off. Kellner said that the pavilion’s serene backdrop, close proximity to the Legion building, which is also available for rent, and inexpensive price make it an asset to the community.

“It’s just such a beautiful place,” he said. “It’s something the city should be very proud of.”


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