“The Portia Club has always been an awesome community resource for us in this area,” wrote Liz Amason in an email.
After finding out that Payette’s popular meeting place was forced to close it’s doors, at least temporarily, Amason started an online fundraiser on the Facebook page for Payette Community Alliance Network, in an effort to help raise money to reopen the community hub.
A slipping foundation caused Friends of Portia Club to close until repairs are made, and board members are hopeful that within the next two weeks they’ll have the nearly $9,000 needed to repair their namesake building.
Built in 1927, the Portia Club is among the list of a dozen National Register of Historic Places in Payette. In 2011, the clubhouse was opened as a community center after years of extensive restoration spurred by the formation of the nonprofit Friends of the Portia Club in 2004.
The clubhouse at 225 N. Ninth St. is still widely used today by a host of nonprofit organizations throughout the area. In fact, Kerrie Taylor, Friends of the Portia Club board member, wrote in an email that the decision to close the clubhouse “meant cancelling six nonprofit rentals in just two weeks,” adding that the building serves about nine nonprofits which each utilize the space once or twice per month.
However, board members were able to find other meeting spaces for some activities.
“It broke my heart to cancel events like [a planned] baby shower, but we were able to find alternatives,” Taylor wrote. “Larry at Eagles and Gary Duff at the Legion Hall really stepped up to help us make accommodations.”
Taylor explained that the board members called everyone they could think of in an effort to reschedule events.
“Turns out that all groups were extremely understanding and mostly made their own plans so the halls weren’t needed,” she said.
‘Very time sensitive repair’
The most urgent problem at the Portia Club is that the support posts are slipping off the wall due to the wall crumbling, posing significant risk of wall failure in the cellar area, which is directly below the dance floor.
This information was shared with the Friends in an email from Jeff Charter, system design specialist for Foundation Supportworks, who inspected the Portia Club property on Aug. 12. Charter said the risk of wall failure makes it a “very time sensitive repair.”
“If this support comes free it will result in failure of the floor above it (the dance floor area above). … were it to fail the club would incur a much larger cost to repair the floor above in addition to the work proposed here,” wrote Charter when he emailed the project summary. “If it failed while people were using the building there would be risk management issues to consider as well. This repair should be completed ASAP (the next month).”
That portion of work is estimated to be $3,712.
However, there is more work needed in order to preserve the structural integrity of the building. Charter in his email also included a project summary that paired fixing the kitchen floor area with the cellar work for a total of $8,996. Charter noted that the area underneath the kitchen “is an important repair that should be addressed in the next 3-6 months to retain the building’s structural integrity.”
For the kitchen floor area, new posts would be put underneath the kitchen, where Charter says the floor is sagging between the walls in the center of the room.
“The support beam under this area is well made and is in good shape but the posts supporting that beam were set into the dirt and are settling into the dirt or rotting which allows the beam to sag.”
He recommended moving forward as quickly as possible to avoid “prevent failure of the building.”
Other than those two areas of the foundation, Charter says the building “appears to be in good shape, and in comparison to other buildings of this era is well designed and constructed. Other support posts are holding well. Only minor settling is evident in other areas of the building which is normal for a building of this age.”
Idaho Heritage Trust steps forward
Friends of the Portia Club board members are hopeful that members of the community who are able to will step forward with donations to help get the needed repairs.
One of those board members, Cleo Thompson, felt optimistic after positive conversations community members.
“If everybody helps a little bit, it’ll all work out good,” she said.
Taylor said the group has about half the money to do the repair right now. That money is raised from rental fees for events and activities, although the space is free for nonprofit groups and youth activities.
The organization tries to keep the costs down for private parties, Taylor said, crediting Thompson for helping save the nonprofit money by going in herself and doing the cleaning herself.
“We can get [the foundation work] started,” she said. “But, it’s getting it finished” that could be problematic without first having the funding.
If the nonprofit waits for an Idaho Heritage Trust Grant, which Taylor said are great because they provide matching funds, the group would have to wait until the grant was awarded to do any spending.
However, she stated Idaho Heritage Trust has stepped forward in helping apply for an emergency grant (up to $1,856) and that Fred Walters with the agency “is offering his technical assistance,” in the process. It’s unknown at this time however what the timeline is for the turnaround on such a grant.
If the Friends do get the grant, “that still leaves $7,000 for us to raise, but [the grant] is essential to helping address the most urgent problem.”
Community member Liz Amason, who has set up an online fundraiser through Payette Community Alliance Network’s Facebook page, speaks highly of the venue and its board members.
“Kerrie Taylor and Cleo Thompson go out of their way to accommodate the needs of those wanting to utilize the facility,” wrote Amason in an email. “In addition, it is just one of the most lovely venues we have in the area and I feel very lucky to have such a great facility available for all of us to use.”
‘Safety is our main concern’
So far, board members have cancelled all events at the clubhouse until Sept. 4, as Foundation Supportworks can come out on Sept. 3.
“We’re approaching it with the attitude that we will raise enough to cover all costs by that date,” wrote Taylor in an email update Monday night. “Fingers Crossed!”
If the work could be done by then, the clubhouse would reopen just in time for a wedding scheduled to happen there on Sept. 7.
If not, the most immediate repairs will be made, and they’ll have to wait on the rest.
The hope is that enough donations will be received that all the work can be performed on the same day and the club can reopen immediately.
However, “safety is our main concern,” Taylor wrote, and saving the club is a priority.
While the board members work to raise money to save the clubhouse, work continues in the background on another project: a property on Main Street in Payette, which was gifted to the nonprofit in 2018.
That building was in “terrible condition,” according to Taylor, and in addition to having to redo the roof, an interior stud wall also had to be rebuilt. Once complete, the group aims to “turn it into a startup space,” she said, with a goal to let someone use it at little to no cost for six months to three years.
Though the budget for that building is “razor thin,” Taylor remains optimistic that the Main Street building could be ready by the end of the year, thanks to help from the City of Payette, a Gem grant from the state of Idaho and a “very generous private donation.”