Let's go back about four-and-a-half years. A group of us veterans along with a member of the Town Council were having coffee at the Rising Loafer, and the conversation was about our previous meeting when we had had to carry a World War II veteran up the stairs. The conversation continued: Wouldn't it be great to have a new Veterans Hall like the one in Lafayette? There and then we put $5 each into the pot to get the project on the road. The Danville Veterans Memorial Building at the time belonged to the County, and the veterans groups leased the building for $1 per year. Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion sub-leased the building to the Town of Danville for $200 per month; the Town paid for improvements, insurance, maintenance and upkeep, which is why it is always neat and clean.
At first we looked at many locations hoping someone would donate land and that with the sale of the veterans building we would be able to construct a new building. When we were unable to find a new parcel, we decided that we had the best location right where we were in Downtown Danville, so the groups involved with this project approached the County and the Town. The County sold the building and the land to the Town with the agreement that it would always be for veterans and veterans groups. The Town met with all of our committees and, working together, we are now at the phase of observing our ideas become a reality.
The existing Veterans Hall has a lot of memories. Built in 1925, it has more than served its purpose. To remodel the building would be an expensive project. To install an elevator, make the building earthquake safe and up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards would be a big expense. The building will be increased from 6,600 to 12,700 square feet. The decision was made to keep the front as original as possible and redesign the entire building. It will be much larger with more seating and space for more than one group to meet at a time. The main large hall will be for banquets, weddings and various events. The Senior Citizens will have more room for their meetings and events, with a larger kitchen and the amenities of a new building.
There has been some controversy about the trees. One only has to look and see that the roots are above ground and extend under the building; upon demolition of the building they will have considerable damage. It is best to deal with the problem before construction. After construction, removal would be costly and may cause damage to the new building.
There are a multitude of people to thank for this project. The Town has been very respectful to the veterans needs, and has dedicated $5.2 million to this project. The veterans have agreed to raise an additional $3 million. To view the plans, call me at 820-5750, or if you would like to be involved in this project please call me and we can arrange to have you attend one of our sessions.
Hopefully, there will be many of our current veterans still around to see this project become a reality. It will be a place for them to meet and get involved with veterans events. When completed, it will be a benefit for all veterans of all wars, and for our young people returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts of the world. It will be the shining star of Danville for another 100 years.
Tony Carnemolla, an Alamo resident who owns Dad's Locksmith in Danville, is Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 75. He is president of the Veterans Memorial Building Development Committee of San Ramon Valley.