Exterior restoration of the Bellvue Grange is nearing completion thanks to funds from community events and some TLC from people who consider the 19th century building the heart of Bellvue.
“It’s our only community building so it’s important to preserve it,” said Judy Jackson, Bellvue resident and member of the Bellvue Historical Foundation.
The Grange has long been the symbol of community spirit, a place where a variety of events, including concerts, and celebrations, including anniversaries, birthdays and weddings, have been held. The Bellvue Seniors meet there two days a week.
The building dates to the 1880s, when Jacob Flowers built his Bellvue house and then, in 1883, constructed a one-story structure nearby for his business. The Bellvue Post Office opened in the building in 1884 and it served as the local general store and post office through the middle of the 20th century. After that, it became a meeting house for the local Grange members and has since has become known as a popular event site, Jackson said.
Some community members wanted to have the Grange building listed on a historical registry, but quickly learned some renovation was required.
“We couldn’t get the Grange designated as historical until the front was back to the original,” said Jackson.
Restoration, of course, meant money, time and effort. So, in 2005, the Bellvue Historical Foundation was created. “We did that so we could gather all the Bellvue people to work on the restoration,” she said.
They began with the fundraisers. “We started our Sun Daze Sunday afternoons. We planted sunflowers in pots around the Grange. Inside the Grange, we had historical talks and demonstrations,” she said. “We sold baked goods at the Flowers House and we had food and games for the children. There was a cake walk – that was very popular – and a silent auction.”
For the event, a line of collectibles were created. “The first year, we sold really neat mugs in copper, red, blue and green. Those were well received. Then the next year, we started with T-shirts. One had a black and gray photo of the Flowers House with Jacob in front and we had another one with a picture of the Grange.”
To that collection was added a shirt that had a local artist’s rendering of the bluff and a stage coach. The event also featured music donated by local musicians. “We had bluegrass, country, a little of everything,” she says. “We also had a farmer’s market and we had a jail. For $2, you could throw someone in jail. That was fun.”
The Sun Daze event was held every summer until this last year because of the fires.
But they had raised enough money along the way to start the renovations. “We shored up the floor several years ago and we also made one bathroom handicap accessible. Then this past summer, we did the new masonry. The window was completed in October of this year.”
It was a community effort, said Jackson, who owns the original Flowers House, purchased by her grandparents in 1927. “Everyone working on this was a volunteer and they put a lot of time into it. It looks so nice.”
The next projects include the second window on the front of the building and a renovation of the kitchen. There will, however, be more fundraising to make that happen.
Jackson doesn’t have an actual timeline at this point but, she said, “I’m the deadline person. I want to see this done before I die.”