A history lesson and patriotic celebration, the dedication ceremony at American Legion Station 171 at Cripple Creek combined preservation with a sense of accomplishment.
Over the past few years, members have renovated and remodeled the Victorian structure built in 1900 at 4th and Carr Street. Estimated at $65,000, the project went over budget, Commander David Donatto said.
The renovation includes the Hall of Heroes military museum on the lower level of the building.
According to a story provided by Post Warrant Officer Rich Ingold, the legion was founded in 1934 in Victor, one of two in southern Teller County. After World War II and the decline of gold mining, members couldn’t support two clubs, so they flipped a coin and Cripple Creek’s Post 171 won the toss, Ingold said.
The building was once a Christian Science reading room and the high school music hall across the street.
In 2002, the City of Cripple Creek turned the building over to the American Legion on the condition that members maintain the structure and remain active.
There is no problem staying active, as Legion activities include laying headstones and holding funeral services for veterans while donating cemetery plots for Legion veterans.
Members place flags at veterans’ graves and distribute gifts to veterans at the Fremont County Care Center. In addition, the post keeps a box outside for flags to be removed – 250 last year. Coming up, the Legion will host a Youth Trunk-or-Treat on October 31. In addition, the Legion supports the activities of the Gold Camp Association and the Two Mile High Club.
The dedication this Sunday afternoon, October 9, paid tribute to Joe Harris who designed and sketched in charcoal the 21-foot mural on an interior wall.
The mural depicts moments and characters from America’s wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Iraq, Bosnia, and Afghanistan, with a room dedicated to the Cold War. Throughout the mural, Harris placed photographs to include one of the Twin Towers, as they burned during the 9/11 attacks. There is a flag-draped coffin to denote soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I’m so proud of that – which I’m not supposed to be, I know that,” said Harris, who lives in Cripple Creek.
After the inauguration, the members arranged tours and hosted a reception.