The historic Waldo M. Slaton American Legion Post 140 building in Buckhead’s Chastain Park is freshly renovated and will serve more generations of veterans after the post set aside a controversial plan to demolish it and build a larger version.
“This renovation should ensure the viability of the building for another 50 years,” said post Commander Ken DeSimone, who also serves as the Sandy Springs police chief, about the roughly 80-year-old, rustic structure at 3905 Powers Ferry Road.
The post held an open house on Veterans Day to show off the $100,000 renovation, which repair rotting flooring, outdated wiring and other issues in the 1930s-era building. The work was done by Cobb County’s Gay Construction, a prominent firm with historic renovation experience whose work includes Atlanta’s Ponce City Market. Tom Gay, the company’s chairman, is a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam and a Legionnaire at the post.
“For many years this building has served as the headquarters for the activities of the post as well as for community service,” said Gay. “We believe it is important to preserve and upgrade the facility, and we performed the work at our cost.”
Three years ago, the post proposed demolishing the building as outdated, past its lifespan, and too small for growing ranks of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. In its place would rise a much larger, $1 million building. That plan drew some resistance among the post’s membership and, in the outside world, from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and the Buckhead Heritage Society.
The post gained city zoning approval, but DeSimone said the plan is not happening due to funding.
“It was all fundraising-dependent. The more money we raised, the more we could do,” he said. “We are still taking donations for kitchen refurbishment and other items that are needed.”
Some of that work yet to come includes installing a sidewalk ramp and gutters, he said.
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. The post is known for community connections, including a T-ball field next to the building and the renting of the facility to such groups as the Buckhead 50 Club. Legion members help run a Boy Scout camp and hold such fundraisers as a run for Buckhead’s Shepherd Center for brain and spinal injury treatment.
The origins of the post’s building are not know for certain. A common assumption is the structure was built as a bunkhouse for workers in President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal work programs.
Post 140 was chartered in 1936, according to DeSimone, but no one knows exactly where, though it is believed it was not in the Powers Ferry Road building.
What is known is that the building has served as the Legion post since at least 1954. At that time, it was deeded by Fulton County on the condition it remain in Legion use; otherwise, ownership reverts to the county.
Slaton, the post’s namesake, died while serving in the Army during World War I. The post’s building also features a prominent memorial to Staff Sgt. Ryan P. Means, a Brookhaven native who became a Special Forces soldier after his friend was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks; Means died of cancer in 2009 while serving.
With decades of social gatherings and community events in its past, and now many more decades to come, the building and its renovation invite personal reflection to those who have made the memories.
“I have been a member of Post 140 for a number of years,” said Gay, “and I am proud of the services the post provides to our veterans, our service members and our community.”
For more information about the post, see post140buckhead.com.