Homer Community House turns 70

©2003 Homer Index

by Darby Cornelius

Not many buildings have this much history of diversity. In its long history,
the Homer Community House has been the site of basketball games, high
school classes, locker rooms, weddings, receptions, concerts, graduation
ceremonies, dances, parties, dinners, exhibits and much more.
Since its construction in 1935, the building has gone through changes,
presented challenges and was nearly torn down several times. In recent
years, strong volunteer efforts fueled what may have been one of Homer’s
largest cooporative community projects. Beginning in 1998, remodeling
efforts to the tune of nearly $100,000 brought the Community House back to
Lifelong Homer resident and Village Council member Chris Miller chaired the
Community House remodeling committee. Other committee members included Mary
Althaver, Sharon Edler and Betty Morse.

“ Some of the council and village employees wanted to close it, to tear it
down,” Miller recalled. “We voted 4-3 to remodel it instead. We began
financing it out of council capital, but we were running a large deficit. We
were getting quite a bit of money from the community, but we were still far
from our goal.”

He said an anonymous donor walked in and asked how much more was needed to
complete the project.
“ Lea Anne (Nowlin, Clerk/Treasurer) told him we needed close to $45,000,”
Miller noted. “The next day she found more than $40,000 in stock
certificates in an envelope at the village office.”

He said the donation was just one example of the generosity of the community
during the project.

“ We had between 30 and 50 volunteers who regularly helped in the remodeling.
About 50 others offered their help when they could, and many people donated
money toward the project. Anyone who donated more than $50 was honored with
a plaque on the wall of the Community House.”

The plaques are on display at the Community House. Many donations were made
in memory of or in honor of loved ones.

Miller headed up the project because he didn’t want to see the community
lose what has been a social center for many years.

“ When the school burned down in 1943, buildings all over town were used as
classrooms until the new school was built in 1951,” Miller said. “Four high
school classes met at the Community House. Partitions were put up during
classes and tore down for basketball practice. There were fold-up hoops that
came down, and the house was used as a gymnasium. You couldn’t shoot a
high-arching shot because there were low beams. If the ball hit those beams
or the ceiling, it went to the other team.”

He added that there was a locker room in the basement that the high school
football team used.
“ They would get changed, run down to the field for practice, and run back,”
Miller said.
In addition to being an asset to the school, the building was used by
numerous community groups.
“ The Community House was used almost every night during the ‘50s and ‘60s,”
he said. “Organizations would meet there - Boy Scouts, Lions Club, Rotary
Club - all kinds of clubs used the house. A lot of farm groups met there.
There would be square dances, weddings, receptions, parties, concerts, games
and other events. The village offices used to be in the front lobby. It was
a multi-functional building for several years.
“ Then in the ‘70s and ‘80s, there was a budget crunch,” Miller continued.
“ The village was in a budget crisis, much like the one we’re in now. The
Community House got used less and less. To save money, the village stopped
heating it and taking care of it.”
He recalled years during the Barneyville Ball when the walls and ceiling
were covered in colored plastic to cover up their unsightly appearance.
Due to neglect, the roof began to deteriorate, water would run down the
outside walls to the inside, causing the floor to buckle, according to
“ When we began the remodeling project, an inspector from the state came in
and identified an asbestos problem,” Miller said. “Instead of telling us to
tear it down, he told us how to fix it. Everyone was very helpful. It took a
lot of phone calls and a lot of work, but a lot of local contractors came
out and donated services and labor.”
The complete internal, external and mechanical restoration included a stage,
new electrical system, insulation, wood floor restoration, paint, new trim,
new men’s and women’s restrooms, and a remodeled kitchen and storage areas.
It was no easy task, Miller noted.

“ It was very discouraging in the first few months,” he said. “We began to
wonder ‘Can we really do this?’, ‘Did we take on too much?’ The committee
was worried about money. Then we kind of got over the hump.”
When the project was complete, a celebration called the Homer Is Home for
the Millennium Community House fund-raising dance was held there December
31, 1999.

“ Once the remodeling was finished, we had a reception,” Miller said. “People
were surprised with how nice it looked. It was well worth it.”
Miller said this project helped the community band together.
“ You can’t measure the pride in a community pulling together to bring
something back that has belonged to the community for so long,” Miller said.
“ It would have been a shame to lose that. There’s always been a strong sense
of ownership in this community. A lot of communities can’t say that. That
says a lot about Homer.”
He added that the community house project set the stage for other area

“ Before this, there hadn’t been any major volunteer projects in the
community,” Miller said. “The parks system hadn’t been done yet. I don’t
think the library project would have come about if it weren’t for the
community house project.”

He added that since the renovation, the Community House continues to be used
for wedding receptions, parties, fund raisers, and as an election polling
site. It has also become the featured site for Homer Arts Advisory Committee
events including community band and chorus concerts, community theater, Art
in Public Places and Homer Community Foundation programs.


Read part 2 about the Community House

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This article courtesy Homer Index.

used with permission

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