As plans for a new American Legion Post 140 near Atlanta City Council approval, the Buckhead Heritage Society is joining the call for preserving the Legion’s existing 1930s-era building.

“Buckhead Heritage Society strives to preserve and promote the historic resources of Buckhead,” said Carmie McDonald, the society’s executive director. “As such, we would encourage the owners of American Legion Post 140 to consider alternatives to the demolition of this viable historic building, and we stand ready to assist them in any way we can.”

An illustration of the rear of the proposed American Legion Post 140 building.

The society joins the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation—whose president, Mark McDonald, is Carmie McDonald’s spouse—in opposing the Legion’s plan to demolish the building at 3905 Powers Ferry Road alongside Chastain Park.

Max Hilsman, the Post 140 officer leading the building plan, said it received approval for a special use permit on Nov. 10 from the city’s Zoning Review Board. City Council is expected to approve the permit—the only zoning step the plan requires—on its Nov. 30 consent agenda, he said.

Hilsman repeated the Legion’s position that it is open to talking with preservation organizations about possibly saving the existing building. The special use permit is required for either rehabilitation or new construction, Hilsman has said.

“We have not been contacted by the Georgia Trust or any similar groups at this point,” Hilsman said. “I have been focused on the [special use permit] process, but will proactively reach out to Georgia Trust upon final completion.”

Post 140 serves military veterans mostly from the Buckhead, Brookhaven and Sandy Springs areas. Its house-like building has a stone fireplace, a deck and walls of irregular wooden planks painted green outside. Since at least 1954, it has served as a Legion post, deeded by Fulton County on the condition it remain in Legion use; otherwise, ownership reverts to the county.

Post officials say the building now has major structural issues, including a rotting kitchen floor, foundation problems and outdated wiring and plumbing. And the Legion post is starting to outgrow it, with membership swelling to around 200, including veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Their plan calls for demolishing the existing structure and replacing it with a larger building that might preserve some elements, such as the fireplace.

In October, Mark McDonald called for preserving the existing building, saying, “I frankly felt this was one of the easier preservation situations I’ve ever seen,” he said, adding in a written statement, “The Georgia Trust is strongly opposed to the demolition of this historic resource.”

While the Legion and the Trust disagree on the building’s historic significance, little is known about it by either side. Hilsman said the common assumption is the structure was built as a bunkhouse for workers in President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal work programs. Backing the idea is the existence of similar structures at F.D. Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

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