(Members of the volunteer renovations team of the Stittsville Legion, Branch 618. The shut-down, due to the pandemic, prompted the members to volunteer their time to upgrade the basement lounge during the shut-down. Photos: Stittsville Central.)
In early 2018, the Stittsville Legion Branch 618, began fundraising to construct a new building on the Stittsville Main Street location to replace the 1930 outdated building. Fundraising had been going well, until the pandemic struck and donations became few and far between. In line with Provincial guidelines, the Legion had to close their doors. During this time of closure, what could be done to spruce up the old place? Renovations of course.
With fundraising slowed down for the re-build, Ellen Johnson the Branch Secretary said, “the members knew that something had to be done to attract people when the doors re-opened” and was happy to share all of the details when it was decided to upgrade the lounge area. A team of volunteer Legion members pooled their various talents – planning the work needed to bring life to the lounge area in the basement and putting the plans in motion. The lounge is so much brighter with new lighting fixtures, flooring, clean white walls and new foam backs for the dartboards. Councillor Gower dropped in to see the renovations as well and said, “The Legion looks great – a great transformation!”. President, Barb Vant’Slot is “extremely pleased with the end result and looks forward to welcoming members and the community to the Legion.”
Tracy Boss, the lead on the renovations, was quick to name the volunteers and extend her appreciation to those who contributed their time to the project: Barb and Steve Vant’Slot, Jay Foley, Glenn Prolas, Barb Forbes, Anne Forbes, Miceal Powell, Tricia Madore, Mark Lariviere, Andy McCauley, Tim Driscoll, Dave Duggan, Kyle Davidson, Luc Gollain, Lyle Stamplecoskie, Brian Dorran, Shannon Bernique, Paige Boss, Brooke Neill, Jason Boss, Ellen Johnston, John Lacroix, Corey North and Rob Petten. Jason Manion of Dulux Paints donated all of the paint required for the renovation.
Now you ask, how can renovations at the Stittsville Legion uncover history? Families who have lived here for generations know that the building was constructed in 1930 and was home to the Loyal Orange Lodge (LOL) No. 489. The building was sold to the Royal Canadian Legion on September 30, 1970 for $25,000. At different periods, the LOL was called upon to provide an additional classroom for the expanding enrolment at Stittsville Union Public School (as it was called back in the day). In 1937 and again from 1962-68 the basement of the LOL was rented for use as a classroom.
If you have ever visited the Legion Hall, you will have noticed the floor to ceiling display on the western wall of the Lounge. During renovations and tear-down of the display wall, a long-hidden gem was discovered. The original blackboard used during the times that the lounge housed schoolchildren. This find was most exciting for the members and they felt that retaining the blackboard would add to the community spirit of the building. It is now being used as their announcement board.
When renovating the old buildings and homes of Stittsville, it proves you never know what history you will discover. The blackboard find was a genuine treasure from the past. One has to wonder how many learned from the many teachers who wrote their lessons – or those who had to write out lines on the blackboard as a disciplinary measure – during those times when the room was a classroom.
The Legion is again open to the public and they look forward to welcoming the residents of Stittsville to a more inviting environment. Visit the Stittsville Legion website to see upcoming events or to donate to their building fund. You can also follow them on their Facebook page.