About Fort Hill Post #376

"A Home for Members"

The Fort Hill American Legion home originally housed Bills and Pettis Undertakers before becoming the Post 376 "Clubhouse" as it was some times referred. Around the turn of the 20th century, R. H. Bills, who had bought out T. C. Pettis's share of the business, was a successful furniture maker, coffin builder, and undertaker. The business was taken over by F. W. Seymour who continued the furniture and undertaking business until moving in 1917. The popular photo image was printed on postcards around 1910.

The American Legion charter of Fort Hill Post No. 376 was granted on September 30, 1919 with 16 names, and since that time the post has seen good times and poor. Following World War I, the post had hoped to establish a home, but in the crash in the late 20's, they lost their bonds and were unable to start. This time the men decided to make the start with what little capital they had and work toward the goal of a home. As per a 1946 article, the membership was over 100.

Fort Hill Post, Memorial Home, Inc. November of 1945, at a Post 376 meeting, it was decided to sponsor a project of getting a home so that service men and women returning from WWII might have a permanent home. Real estate, owned and for sale by Frank Hovey on *Clinton Street in Oxford, was selected as the most desirable location and so... it was purchased. It was a big and beautiful Queen Anne architectural style house with a curved bay window and a wrap-around porch probably built c. 1880's. (*Clinton Street is now called South Washington Avenue.)

In order that the project might be wholly local, and in some future time not revert to the Department of New York, a board of directors was selected and incorporation was made under the name of Fort Hill Post Memorial Home, Inc. which was to be a club house for veterans. The Board of Directors (then) was: Herbert Griffin (chairman), Hans K. Pedersen, Henry Rydzewski, Fred Howell, Paul Ryberg, William Fitzgerald, and Herbert Scarlett.

Saturday, March 16, 1946, the Clubhouse was declared officially open, and the public was invited. (Work had been completed March 8, 1946.) The Queen Anne house, with its typical asymmetrical design, had a "large sweeping veranda" (that's referred to as a porch now) to the left side, the main entrance off-set to the right of center, 14 rooms and and a myriad of eclectic window styles, some with stained glass. According to the local paper, it had "three dining rooms, a bar, a well furnished kitchen [with the most modern equipment available] and several game rooms." It had been made ready by architect and head carpenter, Hans K. Pedersen. The beautiful front hall entrance opened into a spacious hall with a comfortably equipped reading and sitting room at the right. The back parlor and adjoining room on the south together with the dining room were turned into dining rooms, with one room that would accommodate a party of 30, that could be shut off for private parties. The "special feature" was the "modernistic bar," completely designed and built by Pedersen. "The cellar has been so renovated that it contains one of the finest bars anywhere in the county. Another part of the cellar will be made into a game room." It was determined at that time that the main entrance of the home would actually be in the back, South Canal Street (then), because of the upcoming construction of the state highway (NYS 12) to be built that year.

The original residents of the home, Mr. and Mrs. Ray Van Tassel, ran a restaurant there. They were secured by the Board to manage the home and keep the restaurant serving "well prepared meals of superior quality."

The first gift to the Post Home was a safe from Will Evans. After that, the Citizens Club of Oxford voted to donate a pool table to add to the recreation facilities. The Clubhouse was well underway!

A year later, at an annual Fort Hill Post, Memorial Home, Inc. board meeting, it was published that they had had a very good year and paid off $7,647 of their "indebtedness." If they had another such good year, their indebtedness would be paid off, so reported the Corporation's treasurer, Henry Rydzewski. The Board of Directors also reported Home improvements such as the removal of a partition so that shuffleboard could be installed. An old barn was torn down in back as well as the removal of two trees. The lawn was regraded and a new electric sign was installed in the rear of the building. Rear steps were replaced with new railings and they gave the building a new coat of paint.

The following Board of Directors were elected: for a term of three years, Paul Ryberg and Herbert Griffin; for two years, Lynn Loomis; for one year, Oliver Manzer and Vincent Beckwith. After the Board meeting, Legion officers were elected: "president" - Herbert N. Griffin; vice president - Lynn Loomis; secretary - Fred Howell, and treasurer - Henry Rydzewski.

Post 376 always has a POW/MIA Empty Chair. As per Resolution 288, there is a specifically designated POW/MIA Empty Chair and table in the dining hall of the Fort Hill American Legion. It is a physical symbol of the thousands of American POW/MIAs still unaccounted for from all wars and conflicts involving the United States. National POW/MIA Recognition Day is recognized on the third Friday of September.

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