FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The American Legion Post 47’s home, located at 6424 St. Joe Road, will be up for auction Saturday, January 17.
American Legion Post 47 is the oldest in Fort Wayne and opened just after WWI in 1919.
Post 47 closed in 20-12 due a number of factors, but has still met at this location over the last three years. Members and the post commander are not calling this the end of post 47 but rather a new beginning.
“We’re not going to give up and just go away,” former post commander Bob Marshall said. “That’s not going to happen. This is the oldest post in Fort Wayne. We’re going to still be here.”
The new beginning for American Legion post 47 will start this Saturday when it auctions off its property. The more than 16,000 square foot property is now too big for post 47’s needs. It’s where they’ve home since 1977, even after closing in 2012.
Declining membership and participation over the last several decades have made it difficult for the post to financially maintain an area this large.
“In 1945, the end of the second world war, we had nearly 3,500 members,” post commander Gerald Smitley said. “Our members started getting older and the younger generation went off on their own thing, so we’re only at about 600 members today.”
The organization will use the money made from the auction to search for a smaller property, get back up and running and even start campaigning to get younger generation vets interested in joining the legion.
“It’s a national movement to try and get younger generations involved,” Marshall said. “We’re trying that the best we can.”
While there are unknowns for the future of post 47, one thing was made clear. The St. Joe building wasn’t their first home, and it will not be their last. The outcome the upcoming auctions will play a big role in their next step.
“We’re definitely going to keep the organization going,” Marshall said. “We’re looking forward to moving on to a new facility and getting started again.”
Below are excerpts from American Legion Post 47 press release sent Tuesday Morning.
The new Post 47 home was completed in 1977 at 6424 St. Joe Road across from Shoaff Park in Fort Wayne. This is where the Post remains today. The present Post is under the leadership of Commander Gerald Smitley, (Banjo).
A few years ago, many things occurred to cause a temporary demise of the Post. The State of Indiana declared that the Gambling in the Bars and Private Clubs could no longer have what was known as “Cherry Masters”, as they were deemed illegal. This was a large income source for the clubs. Right After they were removed the Legion’s income dropped dramatically. Unfortunately, Post 47 had just gone through an extensive remodel. In addition, the economy also took a large downturn and the Legions and Clubs lost even more revenue with seemingly one bad event after another plus a smoking ban that caused a significant loss of patronage.
At the end of January 2012, Post 47 closed its doors and it stands where a mere shell of what it once was. At this time the Post is moving on and is determined to gain a new life. Significant changes are in order for 2015. We will survive as we always have and are determined to revive the post doing whatever we can to again; trying to be what we once were. We thank all the loyal members who still pay their dues and are still with us.
Post 47 purchased and presented to the City of Fort Wayne, through the Hope Methodist Hospital, the first “Iron Lung” for the treatment of respiratory diseases which were very prevalent at that time.
During World War II, (1942-1946) Post 47 contributed $1.00 per member per year to the American Red Cross.
Early in 1942 Post 47 furnished the meeting facilities as well as the personnel for establishing the first Civilian Defense Units. (Auxiliary Police and Firemen).
In 1943 many children were made homeless because of a fire at the Hanna Homestead Orphanage. Post 47 provided complete living facilities in our meeting hall and the use of our kitchen. The kids were our guest for about one week. Post 47 in conjunction with Auxiliary Unit 47 has through the years provided entertainment and Christmas gifts for the occupants of the Allen County Children’s Home (presently Crossroad Child & Family Services); a continuing activity.
In 1928 the Post, with cooperation of the people of Fort Wayne and local government, raised the money for a memorial Arch, which was erected and dedicated to all Fort Wayne and Allen County World War Veterans. “The Arch” stands in Fort Wayne Memorial Park.
During World War II Post 47 participated and conducted War Bond Drives. We always met our quotas. Hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of Bonds were sold by the Post however, exact figures are no longer available.
In 1937 Post 47 embarked on one of its most noteworthy projects, the “Back to God” movement. During the year religious posters were placed on Billboards throughout the area including one on the Court House Square. Newspaper and radio ads were used in abundance to perpetuate the program. Carl Suedhoff started this program which continued for many years.
In 1946 Post 47 established a $3,000 Teachers Scholarship. As teachers was in short supply after World War II. The Fort Wayne P. T. A. which was working very hard promoting teacher scholarships was given the responsibility for recipient selection.