Three years after fire, VFW aims to rebuild

Jeff Cook Front Royal VFW Post 1860

FRONT ROYAL – Almost exactly three years to the date after the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1860 was destroyed in a fire, Post Commander Jeff Cook said Friday he hopes a new structure will soon be erected.

The building at 1847 N. Royal Ave. was declared a complete loss after a July 12, 2015 fire caused about $700,000 in damages.

According to previous reports, the blaze ignited while police investigated a July 3, 2015 break-in at the building during which thousands of dollars were stolen. Lesley Rose Deaver, 58, of Front Royal, was indicted in February 2017 on charges of arson and embezzlement.

Cook said a $45,000 building was purchased and delivered in pieces in November.

Scott Simmons, VFW quartermaster, explained the building was bought because it was too good of a deal to ignore. He said another buyer backed out of a purchase, and it was available at a discounted price.

Since then, however, the building parts have remained undisturbed and unused on the grounds.

“We just want to erect the building, we’ve got that building laying on the parking lot down there,” Cook said.

Once constructed, it will be a 4,500-square-foot metal structure that will stand on stilts due to the site’s location in a floodplain. Cook said the building will be in “almost” the exact location as the previous headquarters, which was a two-story building dating to the Civil War era.

The new building, he said, will allow for a more modern and functional floor plan with tentative plans calling for a conference room, business center, a club area, kitchen and bathrooms.

Cook said that Luray-based Racey Engineering completed a final site plan last week, which will be presented Monday to a contractor to get an estimate. If the plan receives approval from the town and county planning departments, there could be a groundbreaking ceremony within 30 to 45 days.

If everything goes well, he said, “we could be pulling a permit within the next 30 days.”  He said that the initial goal is to get the building on stilts and under roof, which he hopes will cost $175,000. To completely finish, he said, will likely require about $400,000.

Cook said the VFW was “woefully underinsured” and received less than half the $700,000 damages. He added that “if the person that has been charged is convicted,” the VFW could receive about $40,000 per incident of embezzlement.

Still, he said that the organization needs a lot in donations.

He noted that the VFW was already going through tough financial times and “we could just see a little bit of daylight” and “had a little bit of money in the bank” when the fire occurred.” He said the organization’s fundraising efforts will be just shy of begging.

Anyone interested in donating to the cause can send a check to 1847 N. Royal Ave., Front Royal, or email vfw1860@vfw1860.org.

Deavers’ case is scheduled for a three-day trial in Warren County Circuit Court beginning Aug. 27, according to online court records.