SHUT DOWN: American Legion Lease Officially Terminated With Hamblen House

The following is a press release sent to me this morning from the Hamblen Club.

News Release: 17 September 2018

Charles F. Hamblen American Legion Post 37 relinquishes lease on 1 Anderson Circle Property

With great sadness, the Charles F. Hamblen Club, Inc., (CFHCI) owners of the property at 1 Anderson Circle, St Augustine, accepted the notification of intent to terminate the lease from the American Legion Post 37 (ALP37) Commander on September 11th, with a mutually agreed upon effective date of September 17, 2018.

The document from Post 37 to the Club states “Due to the financial situation the ALP37 has developed over multiple preceding years, which has resulted in ALP37’s inability to make payment on debts and obligations that are conditions, provisions, covenants, and obligations of the lease, in a timely manner, or not at all, ALP37 is unable to maintain compliance with the terms of the lease, hereby notifies CFHCI of ALP37’s intent to exercise the option of said lease, to terminate this lease, effective the mutually agreed upon date of 17 September 2018.” The Post will still hold its September General Membership Meeting at the facility, and is searching for a new location to meet after then.

The Hamblen House Restaurant and Bar, run by ALP37, is closed as of Monday, September 17. The CFHCI’s sole charter is stewardship of Hamblen’s house. The Club historically has no notable expenses beyond the annual Not For Profit Corporation filing with the state of Florida, no other income source, and has no capital reserve to take on this burden. Therefore, the Club intends to go back to Charles Hamblen’s original intent. It proposes to open a social club for the working man (and woman) of St Augustine in hopes of generating enough funds to pay the loan, insurance, taxes, and utilities it is now responsible for. The intent is that “Hamblen House” will be for St Augustinians. It will offer reservations for catering and meetings, parties, and similar events for community groups. It will still be open to the public. The Directors hope to survive the financial burden which is now on the property that was previously owned free and clear.

Otherwise, the CFHCI’s five, all-volunteer, directors will engage a broker to seek out a new long-term tenant for the property.

1 Anderson Circle was the third home of American Legion Post 37, signing the original lease with the CFHCI in the early 1940s. The most current version of the lease rented the property for $1 per year, plus all “expenses and charges of any and every kind whatsoever, relating to the premises or the ownership, use, operation, management, maintenance and repair thereof”.

After over seventy years of occupancy, the building had deteriorated to the point of crumbling around the Post membership. A non-profit corporation was founded by some Post 37 members and historic and military concerned citizens of the city. It was named Forward March, Inc. In 2013, Forward March offered to initiate a fund-raising campaign to renovate all three floors of the property, establish a fine dining restaurant, and create a military museum and welcome center in the building. Unfortunately, the fund-raising efforts came in stops and starts, and eventually only covered approximately 1/4 the cost of the final first-floor-only renovation. ALP37 sat in an unusable building in 2015, and seeing no other option, approached the CFHCI to put the property as collateral for a Line of Credit of almost $1.5 million dollars that was used to complete the first-floor renovation and get the building back open to the public in July 2017.

My 904 News is continuing to investigate the reasons behind the massive debt that put the Legion, and the Hamblen House in this position, and we will keep you updated as the latest information comes in.

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