After years of waiting, the city of Havre de Grace finally has a community center.
Alan Fair, president of the board of the Havre de Grace Community Center, presented the mayor with keys to the building Monday at the City Council meeting.
"We're passing the torch to the city," Mr. Fair said during an interview at the center. "The members of the board have been taking care of it for a long time. To be honest, we're worn out."
And with good reason.
For more than six years, from 1984 to 1990, members of the board and thousands of volunteers spent their spare time in a wooded area on Lagaret Drive, chopping down trees and building walls -- creating the community center.
Board members waited five years to give the building to the city because they did not want Havre de Grace to take over the center while it was in debt, said Jim Newby, the police chief's administrative assistant.
Most of the materials for the building were donated, according to Havre de Grace Police Chief William L. Lamphere, who acted as project director of the center. The items that had to be purchased, including 70 tables and 500 folding chairs, were paid for by fund-raisers. The building is valued at $900,000; $300,000 was raised and spent for the center.
"Our main concern was to build something for the city of Havre de Grace," Mr. Lamphere said. "At the time, there were no buildings large enough in Havre de Grace to hold a large group of people, so we had to travel elsewhere for events. Now we can play host."
Over the years, the 11,000-square-foot Havre de Grace Community Center, which sits on 50 acres of land, has been used for wedding receptions, birthday parties and even an antique postcard exhibit. Within its concrete walls is the largest function hall in the city. It is 50 feet wide by 150 feet long and can hold as many as 700 people.
Visitors to the center are greeted by a gray and brown stone wall, built by local masons. The function halls are painted white and have pink borders. The larger hall houses a mirrored globe, ** which was brought from a New York dance club in the 1960s.
City officials have not decided yet what uses the center will have. "The city is going to have to really assess the building and the property," said City Council President Henry J. Schreiber. "The walls are here and the potential is here. All we need now is creativity and vision."