AMHERST – Art Smith gave the old Legion building on Princess Street a salute on Friday as it fell to a wrecker.
“It’s the least I could do,” said the 65-year legion member. “I had a lot of great times in that building. It’s sad to see it go, but we couldn’t afford to keep it any longer. We couldn’t even afford the oil to heat it.”
Smith remembers the legion being built in the 1950s as the branch, known then as the British Empire Service League, moved from the old Dominion store building on the corner of Havelock and Victoria.
Crews from Dominion Demolition and Environmental began taking down the 60-year-old building early Friday and by early afternoon all that was left was a pile of debris that will be disposed of at the landfill in Little Forks.
The Town of Amherst purchased the building and adjoining property from a Halifax developer in December with plans to demolish it to add to their land bank in the downtown for future development.
The building has sat idle since the legion moved to its present location on LaPlanche Street several years ago.
“There was a lot of history in that place,” Smith said. “We used have a lot of functions in there like dances and bingo. Everyone volunteered and the legion was a busy place.”
Smith said the legion began to fall on hard times about 20 years or so ago when older members were unable to continue supporting the legion and younger servicemen didn’t join.
Current branch president Charles McWhirter agreed that it was sad to see the building demolished, but added its time had come.
“There was nothing more we could do with it, that’s why we made the decision to move six or eight years ago,” McWhirter said. “It just got too big to keep the doors open. We’re still having a hard time keeping our present building open.”
The legion has been engaged in a campaign to repair its roof and has run into some other problems with the building that will need to be addressed soon.