By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — Nola Hulse can remember a time when the rafters of the Mount Pleasant Grange Community Hall rang with the stomps of dancing feet and peals of live music most every weekend.
“It was just a good way to meet people,” said Hulse, 85, a longtime member of Mount Pleasant Grange No. 1112, which manages the hall at 2432 Mount Pleasant Road.
“And you became friends,” she added, “and you all got along.”
Hulse told of her late husband, Victor, a longtime grange master in the 1980s and 1990s, singing with friends in a quartet at the hall during Christmastime and fundraising booster meals.
“We just had a good time,” Hulse said Friday.
“Everybody was friends.”
Now, the floor that once supported countless dances and even roller-skating parties has weakened and started to warp. It even gives slightly underfoot in some areas.
The culprits: wood rot and deterioration caused by water getting under the joists supporting the dance floor as well as the tenacious gnawing of a type of wood-boring insect called a powderpost beetle.
“They get into the wood and basically turn it into mush,” said Dave Louden, a grange member who, along with others, has patched up the floor in some of its weakest spots.
“The beetles have gotten so bad, you can reach up to a chunk of [beam supporting the floor] and tear it out like it’s Styrofoam.”
As the condition of the floor gets worse, the membership of the Mount Pleasant Grange, called the Pleasant Mountain Grange until about four years ago, has effectively been left with two options: collect the funds to pay for the necessary renovations, or tear down the 72-year-old hall to make room for a new building.
“I don’t want to see the building gone. This building is too important to the community,” said Francie Louden, Dave’s wife and treasurer of the Mount Pleasant Grange, which leases the hall from the Mount Pleasant Community Association.
Formal fundraising efforts have not yet begun, she said, though various grange members and friends have offered to help with volunteer labor or materials.
“We need to get the word out about what’s happening with the building,” she said.
The aged floor is just one of a handful of issues beleaguering the building, which also needs updated electrical wiring and a new septic system.
“It will cost up to $143,000 to do the work,” Francie Louden said, adding that Charles Smith with Port Angeles’ Lindberg and Smith Architects surveyed the building in May and estimated the cost of the needed repairs.
The hall does have a new furnace, installed two years ago, and a new roof that was funded by insurance after a windstorm four years ago severely damaged it, Francie Louden said.
She said she remembers well the date workers began installing the hall’s original roof because the first shingle had hardly been laid when Japanese war planes bombed the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, halting work on the roof for a few days due to a forced blackout in the area.
Dave Louden said the beetle infestation must have started 20 to 30 years ago, fed by water from the building’s sinks flowing directly into the area directly under the dance hall.
In response to the safety concerns, the 60- to 61-person-strong paying membership of the grange decided at an April meeting to stop renting out the 1,920-square-foot hall until the needed fixes can be completed.
For most of her tenure as treasurer, Francie Louden, who has lived with her husband, Dave, in the Mount Pleasant area since 2004, said the grange would be busy every month with dances and music performances, some months bringing in between $1,000 and $1,500 in rental fees.
The entire hall could be rented for four hours for $150, she added.
“If we could fix up this building, I knew we’d be able to rent it out to keep up all the maintenance,” Francie Louden said.
Even as recently as April, Dave Louden said he has had a number of calls from various groups, including a number of local bands, wanting to rent the space out.
“[The bands] thought the acoustics in here were some of the best of these old-type buildings,” Dave Louden said.
Francie Louden said both the grange membership and the Mount Pleasant community’s Neighborhood Community Response Team, a community-sourced emergency-preparedness effort, use the hall for their regular meetings and fundraising potluck meals, all of which would be near-impossible without a central gathering place.
“This building is the heart of the community,” she said.
“And if this building wasn’t here, everyone would be living in their own little houses doing their own business, and the camaraderie of the neighborhood would go away.”
Hulse, who has lived just a few blocks away from the hall for 35 years, said it’s the sense of togetherness the grange hall has helped instill in the Mount Pleasant community over its 72 years that will be the most serious loss if the building is allowed to deteriorate further.
“I hope we can get some help and we can keep [the building],” Hulse said.
“It’s a good community hall.”
For information on the grange and how to donate to the renovation effort, contact Judy Hendrickson, grange member and Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Community Response Team coordinator, at 360-457-3896 or email@example.com.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.