The History of VFW Post 4090
1324 E. Bridge St. Portland,
Post 4090 was chartered at Portland Country Club in 1945. Bob Salin was the first Commander with 60 charter members. The original brick building at 1324 E. Bridge St. was built by Charles Pierce around 1880. Mr. Pierce was a general contractor who built several homes in the Portland area, all were similar in style. A design characteristic of his homes was the brick design used for siding; more commonly call “Chicago Common”.
Charles Pierce served in the Ohio Volunteer Artillery, Co. C, and was a member of GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) veterans association after the war.
Mr. Pierce and his family were originally from Vermont and moved to Ohio and then Michigan (believed to be after the Civil war ended) in 1865. Their home was located at Bridge and East St. The Pierce family owned most of the property east of James St. to Grand River. Charles Pierce’s granddaughter (Geraldine) married Ensign Robert Torp-Smith on 21 December 1941 just before Robert reported for Duty on the USS St. Louis, CL 49 to serve in the South Pacific, notably in the Solomon Islands around Guadalcanal. Robert Torp-Smith Captain USNR, retired, lifetime member of VFW Post 4090 and living at the age of 99 in the house on James St. built by Charles Pierce, his wife Geraldine’s Grandfather and Geraldine’s place of birth.
The house on James St. was built by Charles Pierce around the year of 1883. It is believed he built several other homes before he built the house on James St., to better acquaint himself with the building process. The plans for the home likely came from a “style book” that would have been published as a guide to builders for homes, decorations, stairs, and many other construction projects. The Post home was purchased in 1947, from George Bower on a land contract for $8,500.00. The deed was not in the Post name until 1955.
The Ladies Auxiliary was organized November 6, 1947 with the assistance of Mrs. F.Fortier from District 7 Auxiliary of Grand Rapids. The following officers were elected. Ester Sutherland President, Bernita Wilcox senior vice president, Katherine Kaumeyer junior vice president, Mary Hyland Treasurer, Edla Agostini Chaplain, Conductress Pearl Keefer, Guard Dorthy Kissane, Trustees, Rose Marvin, Irene Peachock, and Margaret Lefke. Installation of officers was held at Portland High School Auditorium on Friday evening, November 28, at 8 PM. They held their first business meeting that same year at the Altar Society Hall. The Altar Society Hall was located at (140 Church St.) which is east of St. Patrick’s school on the corner of Church and Center Street. The building was purchased in 1946 and sold in 1965. The building is now the Parish office for St. Patrick Catholic church.
The Dads club was organized in 1967, with Ralph Vashaw as the first President. The Dads club members are fathers of Foreign Service Veterans. Although VFW Posts support and sponsor the Dads club, it is not an authorized auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The Junior Girls unit was organized in 1976, with Cindy Barber elected as the first president. The VFW Post and Auxiliary sponsor the Junior Girls Units. Membership in the Junior Girls Unit is open to girls from five (5) through sixteen (16) years of age who are related to members of the Veterans of the Foreign Wars of the United States, or of men and women eligible for membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The eligible relationship is as follows:
- Daughters, foster daughters, stepdaughters, granddaughters
- Sisters, half-sisters, foster sisters, step sisters
Currently, there are 233 members in the Portland VFW Post. The Post Auxiliary has 260 members. The Motto of the VFW is “Honor the dead by helping the living”. This means that on any given day the Post and Auxiliary may be participating in events such as Color Guard, funeral detail, funeral dinners, reunions, community benefits or fundraisers. The Post has annual events such as: Voice of Democracy, Patriot Pen, holiday parades, family activities, memorials. It has sponsored a women’s softball team, a bowling team, and Cub Scout Troop 258.
In 1947, when the post was purchased, it came with water and electric, but no sewer. The sewer was a hole in the ground behind the horse barn, south of the Post, which it is now a paved parking lot. When it came time to hook up to city sewer, 20 or so members dug the trench line to the street. A local farmer loaned his homemade manure loader tractor to backfill trench.
On or about October 1947, the village commission approved the application for a club liquor license. Approval of the request followed consideration of petitions in favor of and against such a move. A petition was presented, signed by 38 persons, protesting additional licenses for the sale of liquor. A letter from the Rev. Richard R. Rifle also requested the commission deny the request. Supporting the other side of the question were petitions presented by local veterans organizations. There were 43 signatures in favor of granting a liquor license. Another petition authorizing operation of a club on the Post’s property was circulated in the business area of Portland. Fifty-two Signatures appeared on it. Post commander Robert Peacock and member Ivan Wilcox presented these petitions to the commission and explained that the Post had incorporated for club purposes.
In 1978, the property south of the Post home was purchased from the Fedewa family of Fowler for $1.00. This gave the post additional acreage on which to build a new post building, if it is ever necessary.
On May 14, 1980, Mr. William McClellan, an employee of Builders Lumber and Supply Company, along with Carl Goodman, a past Post Commander, went to Kenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania to pick up a donated APC (Armored Personnel Carrier). A member donated $300.00 to help with expenses and Builders Lumber and Supply Company donated a duel axle truck to transport the APC. Reed and Hoppes donated a wrecker to lower the APC onto its current position in front of Post 4090.
In 1981, the new kitchen was added on. On June 14, 2002, Alan Simmons of Michigan Food Service installed a new kitchen exhaust hood. The hood is wrapped with 3M Fire wrap from the hood to the top of the system. The total cost was $5,350.00.
Around the year 2010, The American Legion Post 129 was in need of a home. The Legion had sold their existing building to a developer. The Legion approached VFW Post 4090 with hopes of renting space for their members and a place to call their home. A gentleman’s agreement followed and the rest is history. The American Legion and VFW established a working relationship that is functioning flawlessly to this day. The Legion pays a fair share of the Post expenses, maintenance, and contributes to events and community activities.
The roof was replaced with steel in July of 2012 by J.Weller Construction LLC. The American Legion Post 129 and the Post 4090 Men’s Auxiliary made donations to cover the cost.
A building permit was issued on July 12, 2012, to build a 14’ x 91’ addition on the east side of VFW Post building. The construction was done by J.Weller construction LLC.
On June 22, 2015, a tornado passed through Portland causing major damage in the city. Many homes, churches, and businesses were affected. Our Post sustained minor damage to its vinyl siding, roof-venting units, and parking lot light fixture; the most devastating loss was the POST sign at the parking lot entrance. The sign and structure sustained heavy damage and needed to be replaced.
For the next several months, Post 4090 was busy with repairing the tornado damage, construction repair on the West wing addition, designing a new Post sign frame, as well as conducting regular business operations. The Post hired local contractor Todd Goodman to make repairs to the siding and soffit/ fascia damage.
In July of 2015, it was determined that the walk-in-cooler in the kitchen was in need of total repair. The existing cooler was dismantled by Post volunteers. The lead contractor was TAG Construction LLC; the refrigeration system was redone by Ben Cross. The entire project was completed by the end of September.
In early 2016, a decision was made by Post 4090, its Auxiliaries and American Legion Post 129 to open up the interior wall between the original structure and the west addition. The ceiling was lowered and additional insulation was added to help retain heat in the winter and climate control in the summer. TAG Construction (Todd A. Goodman) was hired as the lead contractor. A countertop was installed where the wall had been opened up and new bar stools were purchased.
The shuffleboard was moved into the remodeled area along with tables and chairs. This gave the shuffleboard league a more isolated area for their playtime and provided additional seating for large crowds on special occasions.
Shortly after the west wing was remodeled, the bar was given a new look. A new counter top was installed along with kick panels and footrest. New bar stools were purchased about the same time. The bar paid for the construction and new bar stools from its own revenue.
The carpet was replaced in 2016, soon after all construction was complete. Jim Schrauben laid the carpet and made a few floor repairs in the process. The Post Auxiliary chaired the committee that was in charge of the new carpet project.
In the summer of 2016, Gilford’s Gutters ran a seamless gutter (over 90 feet long) with two down spouts for our west side of the building. They also ran gutters for the kitchen entrance and finished a short run on the east side of building. Gilford’s Gutter’s donated a large percentage of the project.
In the summer of 2016, our POST sign structure was replaced and presented to the public. The structure was designed by our post members and the actual construction was done by APEC of Lake Odessa. The reproduction of the new POST, Auxiliaries and American Legion emblems was done by RCP Artists of Portland. The footings were built and poured by Moyer Concrete and the setting and positioning of the structure was done by Cook Excavation from Portland.
In October of 2016, TAG Construction LLC was hired to make repairs to the steel roof based on quality standards recommendations from the steel roof manufacturer. The cost was $6,600.00 paid for by VFW Post 4090 and its Auxiliaries. The roof manufacturer gave a detailed breakdown on why the roof leaked and the correct way it should be repaired.
The dining hall tables were replaced in the fall of 2016. The old tables were sold to members of the Post.
On or about July 28, 2016, the National VFW organization submitted a bylaws change (B-11) for approval. The change stated, “The Men’s Auxiliary will cease to exist on December 31, 2016”. In 2015, the VFW National Department passed down General Orders that stated: “The Ladies Auxiliary will now be called the Post Auxiliary. The change was approved. It was recommended that Men’s Auxiliary members join the VFW Post Auxiliary.
January 2, 2017, contractor Jerry (Shine) Martin started work on the remodel of the northeast room “the dance floor”. The project involved: adding additional insulation to the ceiling, re-wiring switches and outlets, dry walling, refinishing wood floor, replacing accent lighting and adding wood room-divider doors. The room remodeling cost was paid for by the American Legion Post 129. The room divider doors were paid for by Post 4090. The Post Auxiliary paid for the dining hall repaint and new lighting.
This collection of the history of VFW POST 4090 has been assembled with the help of many individuals and organizations. This is by no means a complete history of our Post. Much information has been lost, forgotten or unrecorded. It has been arranged in a chronological order of events to best show the hard work that has taken place to build our Post into what it is today. It will continue to grow and evolve as we march through history. It is my intent that this be shared with our members, their families, and our community.
Let us all honor the dead by helping the living.
With honor and duty,
William Almy Commander
VFW Post 4090, Portland, Michigan
Acknowledgements: 9/15/17ba, Portland Public Library, Ionia County Abstract of Deeds, Portland City Hall, American Legion Post 129. John Dorsky, Jackie Beard, Margaret Sheffer, Janet Ogden, Torban and Robert Torp-Smith, and The family of Carl Goodman.