An effort is underway to refurbish Lewis Grange No. 406 and bring back its community spirit.
The Grange was once alive with 4-H meetings, square-dance competitions, Christmas parties, live bands, horseshoe toss contests, theater performances, turkey shoots and potlucks, said Mark Wilson, a Lewis Grange boardmember.
About eight years ago, participation in the local Grange dropped off, meetings were held in homes, and the building fell into disrepair.
“It was built in 1947 to national Grange standards with a stage, and was a gathering place for the community,” said Wilson, who is spearheading the remodeling project. “I got tired of everyone saying somebody should do something about the abandoned Grange building, so I took it on.”
The large hall on County Road W in Lewis features an elevated stage, dance floor, kitchen and bathrooms. For the past five years, between farming duties, Wilson has been slowly fixing the hall up, paying for materials out of his own pocket.
A nearby irrigated pasture was draining into the building so a ditch was installed to stop that, but the subfloor was ruined and was recently replaced. The dance floor is being rebuilt with much of the original oak flooring, and is nearly complete.
The bathrooms have been remodeled with new toilets, dry-wall, linoleum and fresh paint. The kitchen is next, with plans to knock out a wall to make it larger, and eventually upgrade it to commercial standards.
“It is a solid building, but if we don’t keep it up, it could burn down like the one in Yellow Jacket did,” he said.
A dusty trophy case is filled with memories of the past glory of Grange No. 406, with trophies for theater, horseshoe toss and dance contests.
“Lewis was big time into square-dancing,” Wilson said.
Grange member Odis Sikes has been helping out with the remodeling and remembers playing country music on the stage for neighbors and friends.
“It was always a good time, and people would dance and socialized into the wee hours,” he said. “We’re want to bring that back – the 4-H meetings, theater, potlucks – show the kids there is more to life than TV and computers.”
The Lewis Grange began in 1929 and is part of the Colorado State Grange organization created to support agricultural communities. There is a local board and members help organize events.
In 1947, Lewis volunteers built the hall on land donated by Charles Porter and C.C. McAfee. In 1954, Grangers rented some land and raised beans and wheat to pay for the building. By 1956, they paid off the debt, and threw a potluck attended by 200 Grange members. For desert, they burned the mortgage, according to a published story.
That spirit is what Wilson and Sykes are hoping to bring back.
“But we’re having a hard time finding volunteer labor to help out with the project, and we need cash donations so we can buy remodeling materials and keep up with the bills,” Wilson said.
He hopes to have the Grange ready for a grand reopening this fall. The plan is to have a country music concert and potluck. Displaying some of the scrapbooks kept in the attic that documenting the Grange’s former glory days will hopefully be inspiration to keep the traditions alive into the future.
“We’re trying to get it back up on its feet again for community uses. It’s been a long road, but we’re making progress,” Wilson said.
For more information or to help, contact Wilson at 970-739-6622.