Willamette Community and Grange Hall
The Willamette Community and Grange Hall southeast of Philomath should be getting its new roof in September. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

If those walls could talk … baby showers and weddings, livestock association meetings, graduation ceremonies, the snowstorm of 1950 and a few years later, an electrical fire that could’ve been catastrophic. Just a sampling of what’s gone on inside the historic structure that for decades served as the centerpiece of the tiny Greenberry community.

Sitting on the corner of Highway 99W and Greenberry Road about 10 miles southeast of Philomath, the Willamette Community and Grange Hall could’ve vanished into history if not for the efforts of a dedicated group of individuals. The building had fallen into disrepair after suffering the consequences of the modern world.

But those voices will continue into the future with an aggressive renovation project that will reach a major milestone next month with the installation of a new roof.

Jay Sexton, Willamette Grange No. 52 president, speaks with excitement about the hall’s renovations.

“When we started, it was like, ‘oh that’s a lot of money to raise and will people even think our thing is worth it?” Sexton said. “Having that first Kinsman grant and those guys specializing in historic preservation, that really was a boost to our morale. We’re like, ‘here’s a project, is it good enough’ and these guys who know their stuff go, ‘yeah, it’s good enough.’”

Sexton was referring to a $20,000 grant from the Kinsman Foundation, money that has gone toward replacing the building’s roof.

“We’ve got lots of plans and I’m happy to be right at the cusp of getting this,” Sexton said.

Willamette Community and Grange Hall
Jay Sexton, Willamette Grange No. 52 president, seen here with plywood that was delivered earlier this week, believes membership will increase with the building improvements. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

During an interview for a feature story back in late January, Sexton said the goal was to raise $80,000 to make the roofing replacement a reality. Several grants came in and folks started donating money but project costs had soared from an original estimate of $72,000 to a more recent projection of $110,000 — a result of wood prices that had gone up.

Earlier this week, the principal parties involved with the roofing project met to finalize the plans. Said Sexton, “We feel like everybody knows exactly what we’re going to end up with.”

All of the ceiling plaster has been removed.

“We cleaned it all out and the next thing that’s going to happen will be to put heavy construction paper on the floor and bring up the sheet plywood and cover all of the floor to protect it during the demolition of the roof,” Sexton said. “The roof will go off and the new trusses will be delivered Sept. 10.”

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After the roof is removed and before the trusses go up, work will be done to strengthen various support points. The plywood will be reused on the roof.

Besides the roof, other work that’s been going on includes restoration of the historic hall’s portico above the main entrance, a project that’s getting close to completion. An area on top with railing that had been lost over the years is now back to bring the building closer to its original look.

“We wanted that to be a welcoming, we’re-on-our-way kind of a statement,” Sexton said, adding that some work still remains, such as a final coat of paint and sections that need trim.

The sign, which is temporarily positioned to the right of the portico, will return to its front-and-center location after it is restored.

Willamette Community and Grange Hall portico
The portico improvements include an area on top with railing to bring the building closer to its original look. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Sexton couldn’t say enough good things about a particular group that’s put in a lot of good work.

“We ran into these volunteers that are super good — it’s a group of four older guys and they cleared out our hedge of nonnatives (plants) and they’ve also done a ton of work in the hall,” Sexton said. “They’ve just been a real boon to us because they really like helping out and they’re really good.”

Part of that work has involved opening up areas within the structure that need attention to strengthen weak points in the foundation.

The project did get good news this week related to the price of needed materials.

“We got a great deal on plywood,” Sexton said. “The price had gone up to $110 a sheet and we just got this yesterday and it was $35 a sheet.”

Another contribution came through Scott Ramsey, a Philomath resident who also has a business just down the highway.

“He gave us half of a storage container that he has to put our historical items in during the construction,” Sexton said. “We’ve got a lot of that moved out” with the rest coalesced in the building’s bottom floor.

Grants have included:

• Certified Local Governments grant issued through the Benton County Historic Resources Commission — Money from the grant was used to help pay for the portico restoration.

• Benton County Cultural Coalition — An initial grant of $1,350 awarded in 2019 went toward electrical and water needs. A 2021 grant for $1,663 helped pay for an upgraded sink, tables, picnic tables and landscaping.

• Oregon State Grange — This organization has issued grants twice with the first going toward the cost of purchasing a plastic overnight for the roof and the second one paying for the sign out front.

• Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund — An initial $5,000 grant paid for engineering work for the roofing repairs and a second grant, also for $5,000, is going toward the cost of the roof trusses.

• Kinsman Foundation — An organization that focuses on the preservation of historic resources, the grant contributed $20,000.

• Oregon Parks and Recreation “Preserving Oregon” grant — This award was good for another $20,000 with the money going toward framing and materials for the new roof.

The organization hopes to bring in two more major grants — one for $20,000 and another for $25,000.

In addition, the organization received a zero interest loan from a member for $25,000 and smaller donations have added up to $15,000.

Grants, donations and the no-interest loan designated for the roof project currently add up to $85,000. Asked how much money will be needed, Sexton said “maybe $110,000 is a reasonable guessing point at this time. It was going up (the cost estimate) and it’s peaked and we don’t know where we’re at on that curve.”

The Willamette Community Hall and Grange will celebrate its centennial this winter with the building going up during the winter of 1922-23. The Georgian Revival-style structure features 4,750 square feet of space and the property includes 1.96 acres.

Sexton believes Grange membership will increase with the building’s upgrades. Two years ago, there were 15 members and in a year’s time, that number doubled. Sexton said the number of members is currently in the low 40s with the organization aiming for 45 by the end of the year.

“It’s a mere $55 per person for a year,” Sexton pitched.

The Willamette Community and Grange Hall has a GoFundMe campaign to help reach its fundraising goals. The Willamette Community and Grange Hall Historic Building Foundation has 501(c)3 nonprofit status, so donations are tax deductible. Click here to visit the GoFundMe.com page.

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