Volunteers swarming to upgrade Denman Island landmark

The Denman Island community has come together to fix its 100-year-old community hall.

Replacing the floor of the Denman Island Community Hall is no small job.

The Denman Island community has come together to fix its 100-year-old community hall — and work has been buzzing along since earlier this month.

Margie Gang, president of the Denman Island Recreation Commission Society (DIRCS), said the main work to repair the foundation of the Denman Island Community Hall should be complete by the end of September. Although she said the company hired to do the work, C&W Campbell Construction, has been excellent, she also noted a large contingent of community volunteers has joined in on the job.

“Volunteers, I figured there’s probably, altogether in out of the community, 80 people that have committed volunteer time and energy towards this project,” said Gang. “And especially the people on our board, have probably committed, you know, the core sort of four or five people, have probably committed well over 100 hours each.”

According to Gang, the foundation under the original structure — which was built in 1912 — is a weak point in the building.

“The original foundation was large cedar posts buried in the ground. Those foundations were replaced with concrete footings and cedar posts in the 1950s. The new footings weren’t built on firm bearing, and have shifted and settled over time,” said Gang.

“Perimeter drainage channels were dug around the north side of the building to reduce moisture under the hall that had been a problem since 1912. Although it’s much drier now, the moisture created rot in the posts, beams and joists.”

So, the floor was ripped up, and the joists and beams were removed. A skim coat of concrete and replacement of the foundation walls and piers with ones consistent with current building standards are also part of the upgrades.

After the project is complete, DIRCS will host a 100-year birthday celebration in the hall, which has been a central hub of the community for its entire life.

“We do want to get in representatives from our sponsoring agencies and media, plus a historical presentation and some music and, you know, other types of festival-like activities,” said Gang, adding dancers and other local talent will be featured at the celebration.

So far, Gang noted about $200,000 has been contributed to the project, which she expects will cost about $270,000 in total.

Gang noted work to obtain funding began in November 2010 when the DIRCS board of directors applied to the Canadian Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage capital fund.

Funding also came from the Coast Sustainability Trust, the B.C. Heritage Legacy Fund, the Comox Valley Regional District, Tourism Vancouver, the Comox Valley Foundation, and recently, $5,165 was raised through the Denman Island Volunteer Fire Department’s annual Community Pancake Breakfast, including $1,000 from Denman Island General Store.

Gang noted she is waiting to hear back on a couple more applications for funding, and Concerts Denman, which uses the hall, will donate some of its proceeds towards the project.

The community hall was the first building on Denman Island to be officially recognized by the Islands Trust Council in its new heritage register. However, the Denman Island Old School Centre has also been recognized, and Gang expects other buildings to follow.

“There’ll be others, like there’s the Anglican Church here that is that old, there might be a couple houses that are that old, and I think maybe the General Store might be also that old,” she said.

For more information on the Denman Island Community Hall project, visit http://denmanhall.wordpress.com.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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