Hopes are high among Sonoma Valley Grange members that their long task of upgrading and refurbishing the Grange Hall on Highway 12 will soon be finished. President Seth Dolinsky said he believes the hall will re-open for community use and rentals sometime in September.
Closed since early 2015 to make upgrades including installing new handicapped-accessible bathrooms and a commercial kitchen, the remodeling turned out to be a bigger job than members initially anticipated.
“It’s what happens with old buildings, when you open up walls, you find things you didn’t expect,” said Dolinsky.
It’s difficult to get an exact date when the hall was built, but Boyes Hot Springs historian and former Sonoma Valley Grange president Michael Acker believes it was constructed between 1900 and 1920. A landmark of Boyes Hot Springs, located across the highway from Mary’s Pizza, the hall started out as part of a resort. The Sonoma Valley Grange, which was chartered in 1924, bought the building from resort owner Selig Rosenthal in 1934.
Completed upgrades to the building so far include two new bathrooms, a refinished wood floor, new interior paint and curtains, new electrical and plumbing, energy efficient lighting, new flooring in the kitchen, and roof repairs. A new commercial stove and dishwasher will also soon be installed, as well as new landscaping. However, when the building initially re-opens, the kitchen won’t be ready for commercial use.
Dolinsky said the Grange must raise another $40,000 to complete the work to have a permitted commercial kitchen. He said funds are needed for a fire suppression system for the stove, countertops, sinks, a freezer, and a refrigerator. So far the Grange has raised $140,000 for the total rehab project with $100,000 generously donated by the owners of Stone Edge Farm. Grange member Jim Callahan has been leading the construction committee donating his professional expertise and materials. Numerous Grange members have also volunteered their time doing demolition and other work as appropriate.
Dolinsky points out that Grange members are working hard to provide a commercial kitchen for community use in order to help provide economic growth in the Springs.
“I’ve already been contacted by operators of food trucks and caterers wanting to know when the kitchen will be available to rent. This will allow potential food producers to start businesses,” he said.
Nationally, the Grange is a 145-year-old organization. It was started by farmers as a way to have a place to gather, collaborate, share ideas, and also to organize to have political clout. While still concerned with food and farming, the Grange has evolved to being a community service organization.
The Sonoma Valley Grange is particularly interested in supporting sustainable and organic farming. Its motto is, “Healthy Farms, Healthy Food, Healthy Community.” The members consider the hall to be the community center of the Springs.
Dolinsky said: “The Grange hall can be a focal point for the whole valley for community events. The upgrades have much improved its atmosphere and the commercial kitchen will provide new opportunities.”