North St. Paul VFW Post 1350 looks to sell building


The North St. Paul VFW Post 1350 is located downtown on Seventh Avenue. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

This clipping, from the April 1949 Review, previewed the VFW’s building project.

North St. Paul has been home to the Arthur O. Haukland Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 1350 since 1934.

Now, due to financial difficulties and dwindling membership, the VFW post has decided to sell the downtown building it has occupied since 1949. The hall is located at 2483 E. Seventh Ave. on the west end of the downtown district.

The post is named after Arthur O. Haukland, the first North St. Paul resident to be killed in combat during World War I.

Arthur Haukland, the post’s namesake, was hit by shrapnel on Oct. 4, 1918, on the Champagne Front in France. His body was returned to North St. Paul in 1921 and is buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Mahtomedi. He was 29.

On Oct. 10, 1934, Post 1350 was chartered by 31 area veterans and has remained an active organization in the community for almost 80 years.

In order to be eligible for membership, individuals must have served in a combat zone in a foreign war. Of the post’s 375 members, Commander Bill Jessen said the majority are Vietnam War veterans.

Although the post has drawn some younger members from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jessen explained that their numbers are not sufficient to support the VFW hall in the future.

“We’re financially strapped,” Jessen said. “With the cost of operating and maintaining the building, we just can’t afford it.”

Without a home

Currently, eight of the 13 posts in the state VFW’s Fourth District, which includes Post 1350, are without a building.

Jessen said the VFW is made up of two parts, with the physical space being of lesser of the two.

“There’s the building, which contains the bar, clubrooms and meeting space, and there’s the post, which is our members and really what the VFW stands for,” Jessen said.

He explained that Post 1350 would continue to be located in North St. Paul, but perhaps would conduct its meetings in a church or other community space.

“Without the physical building, we’re just fine,” Jessen said. “We haven’t started researching where yet, but we’d like to stay in North St. Paul.”

Jessen said the number of walk-ins at the VFW has dwindled in recent years. “There’s just not the traffic in downtown North St. Paul that there used to be.”

However, the 78-year-old post is far from disbanding. “We will still remain active within the community and plan events into the future,” Jessen said.

Additionally, the post will be merging with two other VFW posts from the metro area, bringing membership at Post 1350 to about 500. Since the transfer is not yet official, the names and post numbers could not currently be disclosed.

Jessen highlighted May’s Memorial Day service and the September POW/MIA candlelight march as events that the VFW will continue to support. The post’s Friday night Lenten fish fries are a popular dinner destination for many members of the community.

Valued community organization

“It’s sad to see they’re closing their doors,” said Terry Furlong, a North St. Paul City Council member and local business owner. “They’ve had a long history in the community, and it’s sad to see any service organization lose their home.”

Furlong has worked closely with members of the VFW on the new Veterans Park project. “They’re great people to work with, and I think they’ll still be very involved in the community, even without the building.”

Kevin Jents, who was taking in a presentation at the North St. Paul Historical Museum Feb. 26, praised the VFW’s community involvement. He and his brother Jerry coached and organized the VFW’s summer youth baseball program. “The VFW was just wonderful to us. I’d present them a budget for the year -- what we needed for balls, equipment, whatever -- and they never said no. They always provided whatever we needed.”

The teams once played on a field where Franklyn Park Apartments and the Community Center are now.

The program differed from others in that it served middle-school-age youth, Jents notes. “It was an excellent program, and if you asked any of my kids they’d say the same.”

A struggling area

The downtown area surrounding the VFW post has experienced its share of financial hardships in recent years.

The struggling North St. Paul Community Center, located directly behind the VFW hall, almost closed its doors on New Year’s Eve, but remained open in January and February. Just last week the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school board unanimously voted to lease the building and transform it into an alternative learning facility for high-school students starting this month.

The Ramsey County branch library, which occupies a corner of the community center, will remain open.

East of the VFW hall is Franklyn Center, which currently has three vacant office spaces. Essence Real Estate Services, Inc., the center’s realty company, could not be reached for comment at the time of publication. The building was built in 1958 and housed Weber’s Supper Club and bowling alley before it was remodeled into an office complex.

VFW Post 1350 wants to sell its building as soon as possible. The structure has been listed with real-estate agent Dana Witzel, a member of the VFW and veteran of the First Gulf War.

“Who knows how long it’ll take?” Jessen said. “It really depends on what the market dictates.”

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7814.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here