Young Idyllwild nonprofit is taking pledges in effort to buy
Town Hall, since the 1940s a community center for town activities, is for sale by the Johnson family – the family who was instrumental in deeding the land and organizing the construction of the longtime village meeting place.
The late Gerald E. Johnson envisioned a town meeting hall as a place in which the community could convene and socialize. He made a land bequest to the community and, in December 1946, town residents and merchants came together to begin construction of the two- story 4,000-square-foot facility.
Young Idyllwild, a local nonprofit has, for several years, been attempting to “save Town Hall” for community use by raising money to buy it. According to Kathy Wilson, of Young Idyllwild, the nonprofit is dedicated to “purchase, renovate, preserve and give new life [to Town Hall] as the Idyllwild Center for the Arts, and Community Theater.”
To that end, Wilson and Young Idyllwild have set up a pledge system on Facebook. “We’re asking for pledges only and not accepting funds until we feel we can make this a reality,” said Wilson. “Before we go forward and commit to this project, we would like to get an idea of the amount of community support we can count on.”
Part of that process is to gauge, through Facebook response, the interest of residents and visitors in making monetary donations, securing naming rights through large donations, donating materials and/or labor, hosting fundraisers and assisting in writing grants to bring the historic building back to its original purpose – as a recreational facility for the community. The link for responding to indicate interest is https://form.jotform.com/91046004703142.
Town Hall was dedicated on July 10, 1947, and began its storied history of hosting plays, dinners, concerts, games and recreational activities. In the years after the war, when Idyllwild’s population was small, Town Hall was everything – a public gathering place built by the public and informally “owned” by the community, owing to the sweat equity required to build it by community volunteers.
On Aug. 30, 1952, formal transfer to the “community” was made by Gerald and Eleanor Johnson, by Grant Deed to the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce. The transfer was made with restrictions: the property was to be used for only one purpose – to serve the town as a community and recreational site. The transfer stipulated that should any violation of the granting covenants take place, title would revert to the grantors, the Johnson family.
On Nov. 2, 2012, the Chamber disbanded and re-conveyed the property to Johnson heir Jay Johnson. Johnson’s stated intent and preference is to preserve the building as a community resource.
The property is listed, according to Broker Marge Muir, at $449,000.
Said Jay Johnson, “I’ve always worked to try to keep it [Town Hall] with and for the town.”