County: Kiowa County
Date Constructed: 1938
Built by: WPA
The American Legion Hall is located at the southwest corner of the Kiowa County Fairgrounds. The single-story, 95’ x 35’ building rests on a concrete foundation. Three projections on the north side modify the otherwise rectangular plan. The building is frame covered with stucco. The stucco is painted white and “Post 125 American Legion & Aux” is painted in red on the south side of the building. The side-gable roof has exposed rafter tails and is sheathed with corrugated metal roofing. The building features large, horizontal, rectangular panels on all sides. They are composed of vertical boards and painted red. The panels can be propped open to allow light and ventilation to the interior. When raised, these openings may also be used as serving windows to distribute food to fair crowds. Above the panels are widely spaced, small, horizontal, three-light fixed windows. The windows are wood-framed with wood surrounds. The doors are all wood with wood lintels and sills. They are composed of vertical boards like the wall panels and are also painted red.
In the interior there is a large gathering space with wood floors and a celotex ceiling held in place with wood battens. The walls are stained and varnished plywood. Wood chairs (which appear to be original) are arranged along the south wall and a stage is located on the north side. The restrooms are on the north side and the kitchen fills the east end of the building. The kitchen retains its original cabinets and stove.
The American Legion Hall meets Criterion A for its significance in the area of Social History for its association with President Franklin Roosevelt’s legislative agenda to rescue the United States from the Great Depression. This agenda included the creation of an unprecedented number of policies, programs, and agencies to provide relief, employment, conserve natural resources, and assist in construction of public works—all with the greater goal of stimulating the devastated economy. Constructed by the WPA, the American Legion Hall presents an important record of the federal relief programs administered in Colorado’s eastern plains during the Great Depression. Although all of Colorado was affected by the dire economic conditions of the 1930s, the agricultural-based economy of the eastern plains was especially hard hit due to the drought conditions that led to the Dust Bowl. The construction of the American Legion Hall provided much-needed employment in Kiowa County. The New Deal construction programs emphasized projects providing civic, educational, and health benefits for a community. During these difficult times, New Deal agencies also recognized the psychological benefits of recreational and cultural activities. This community building is a good example of the efforts of the WPA to boost moral during the Depression through the construction of buildings that could be enjoyed by the entire community.
The American Legion Hall also meets Criterion A for its significance in the area of Entertainment/ Recreation as a venue for community gatherings, dances, receptions, and other events. With a small population, Kiowa County has limited venues for recreation, making the American Legion Hall especially significant to the social life of the local community. The population of the county reached its peak of 3,786 in 1930 and in 2000 was just 1,622. Located on the fairgrounds, it is also associated with entertainment and recreation events during the annual Kiowa County Fair.
The American Legion Hall meets Criterion C in the area of Architecture as a rare surviving example of a simple, vernacular building constructed by the WPA. The WPA constructed many plain, wood-frame, functional buildings such as the community building. However, WPA buildings that were constructed of wood, simple, and unadorned, were much less likely to survive to the present than buildings that were constructed of stone or brick and more elaborate in scale and design. This is a well-preserved example of a WPA building type of which few good examples have survived. The hall is also significant for its construction methods, using recycled building materials. WPA projects aimed to spend as much as possible on labor and as little as possible on materials. Thus, materials from old buildings were reused whenever possible. The WPA dismantled a collection of old buildings at Ft. Lyon in Bent County and reused the materials in several WPA projects in eastern Colorado.
On May 17, 1937 a WPA project proposal was submitted to construct a community building at the Kiowa County Fairgrounds. The application estimated the total cost as $6,028, broken down as $3,968 from the WPA and $2,060 from the local sponsor, the Kiowa Board of County Commissioners. The frame and stucco building was designed to accommodate a dance hall with a stage and a kitchen and dining/serving room. The justification statement read, “This project will provide a needed building for community gatherings and will give an impetus to social and athletic activities. Located in the Fair Grounds, it will be so designed that large gatherings, both inside and out of the building, may be served refreshments expeditiously. It also will provide a commodious shelter for Fair crowds in inclement weather.” In addition, it states, “It will be conducive to building up community co-operation, spirit and cheerfulness.”
Salvaged materials appear to have been used in the construction of this building as the proposal reads that the “project is submitted contingent upon the release to the sponsor by the U.S. Government of material salvaged from the wrecking of the ‘Store Building’ at Ft. Lyon, Colorado.” There was a WPA project at Ft. Lyon to demolish buildings and improve the grounds. The WPA recycled building materials whenever possible since they wanted to spend as much as possible on labor and as little as possible on materials. According to the application, the building would be 110’ x 50’ which was a little larger than the actual 95’ x 35’ building. Part of this change is due to the fact that the original plans called for the stage to be located at the western end of the rectangular building. Instead, the stage was placed in a three-sided extension located on the north side of the building. Construction began in July 1938. It is not clear what caused the delay between the project being submitted in 1937 and the start of construction the following year. Part of the delay may have been the need to wait for the availability of salvaged materials from Ft. Lyon.
It is not known if the building was always intended to house the American Legion and Auxiliary or if this developed during construction. The WPA file never mentions the American Legion, only referring to the structure as a “community building”. But in August 1938, the Kiowa County Press reported that “work was proceeding rapidly” on the new “American Legion Hall”. The community building was completed on October 27, 1938. The American Legion Hall was one of several buildings constructed by the WPA in Eads. Other projects include the town hall, hospital, elementary school, and county garage. Constructed of stone, these other WPA buildings are quite different in appearance than the American Legion Hall. The town hall, hospital, and elementary school have all been significantly altered, making the American Legion Hall one of the most intact WPA buildings in Eads. On October 7, 1938 there was a joint dedication ceremony for the American Legion Hall, town hall, and hospital. Paul Shriver, the WPA Administrator for Colorado, attended as well as the WPA Director of Operations, Director of Employment, and Director of Finance. The newspaper described the dedication as “the first in the history of Eads at which so many valuable improvements will have been involved.”