03/03/04 — American Legion building coming down

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American Legion building coming down

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on March 3, 2004 2:01 PM

From the outside, the red brick building at 221 W. Pine St. looks sturdy, and only slightly neglected.

A few window panes are cracked or broken, and weeds sprout around the steps. Vines snake across the roof, but the slightly faded brick still appears strong and indestructible.

The interior tells a different story.

American Legion

News-Argus/Barbara Arntsen

The black American Legion Building at 221 W. Pine St. was a center of activity during World War II, but years of neglect have led to its condemnation.

"It appears to be good solid brick, but the second floor has collapsed entirely," said Chief Building Inspector Ed Cianfarra. "The first floor is falling down onto the ground below and the roof is open."

Trails of trash, hypodermic needles and tattered blankets inside the building are remnants left behind by vagrants and homeless people, Cianfarra said.

For years the dilapidated building has had a place in state history.

"It was famous in World War II," said City Manager Richard Slozak. "It was the only black American Legion building in North Carolina for many years."

Cianfarra did some research on the history of the building before asking the council to condemn it.

The building, he said, was built in 1910, but it may not have been used as an American Legion building until the beginning of World War II.

A 1936 Goldsboro City Directory lists a grocery store at that location.

"Back during World War II, it was the place for black servicemen to go, from Raleigh to the coast," Cianfarra said. "They had so many wonderful activities there."

The American Legion building was also used extensively during the Korean War, Cianfarra said.

But despite its fame, the building is beyond being saved, and the council voted Monday to condemn it.

"It's a shame it couldn't be saved," Cianfarra said. "It's unfortunate that a piece of history that was so important couldn't be maintained."

Slozak said that the few surviving members of the Legion were in their 70s and didn't have the resources to restore the building.

"And the national organization won't donate money for any restoration on the building because it's beyond repair," he said.

Other condemnations

The council also condemned a house at 215 W. Pine St., owned by Margaret N. Buffington and Mary Cannady of Massachusetts.

Two weeks ago the council gave Stephen Barcel three months to restore a house at 708 E. Pine St.

Barcel had restored two other properties and told Cianfarra he planned to restore the Pine Street house.

When the council agreed to extend the time before condemnation, it was with the stipulation that the back taxes be paid within a week.

The taxes weren't paid, so the council told Cianfarra on Monday to proceed with the demolition process.