FAIRBORN — The former home of the Fairborn American Legion Dignam-Whitmore Post 526 will be sold to a developer to be turned into downtown housing, officials said Friday. The city of Fairborn is under contract with CESO Inc., the developer of Waterford Landing, to demolish the building and construct town homes at the site.
The city acquired the building in 2017, after the American Legion foreclosed on the property. CESO and the city of Fairborn began talks in 2019 to construct more housing downtown.
“The benefit is that getting more people to live downtown drives the market for downtown, which includes retail and restaurants,” City Manager Rob Anderson said. “We have a great relationship with them.”
The Miami Valley Military History Museum had been looking to acquire the old Dignam-Whitmore Post 526, both for its size and its connection to the American military. Currently headquartered at the Dayton Veterans Affairs campus, the museum had been eyeing the building as the site for its move to Fairborn, known as “Operation Big Switch.”
It’s really a kick in the teeth,” said Cathy Beers-Conrad, the museum’s public affairs officer. “We’re going to exhaust all our efforts in Fairborn and then cast our nets far and wide, but there’s only so much time that we have.”
The museum has a few alternative locations in mind, including a location on South Central Avenue, as well as the old Kroger building near Five Points. However, the delay has exacerbated the museum’s already tight deadline, as its current location is due for renovations.
“We have until the end of next summer, otherwise we’re going to put everything in storage,” Beers-Conrad continued.
In terms of why the old post is being demolished, the building was not in very good condition when the Legion struck its colors, according to former post commander Chuck Knaub. The building required significant repairs “to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars,” including the HVAC system and the roof.
“It’s a noble idea,” Knaub said of the museum taking over the post.
“There are significant issues that would have to be resolved in order for anyone to occupy that building,” he added.
Despite the setback, the situation has not decreased the desire for the museum to come to Fairborn.
”Even if American Legion building didn’t exist, [Fairborn] is the perfect home for us,” Beers-Conrad concluded.
Post 526 was established in 1923, and is named for George Edward Dignam and Robert F. Whitmore, the first Bath Township casualties in World War I and World War II, respectively. The two will be recognized by the city as part of the Memorial Park project currently in the works.
American Legion Post 526 is still active in the community, and meets regularly at the Fairborn Senior Center.
Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.