Blog of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

Documenting Veterans Organizations with Baseline Survey

We’ve written quite a bit about PA SHPO’s Baseline Survey initiative over the last three years. We’ll be sharing even more in 2024 when we publish our Year 3 results but – spoiler alert! – I can say that we will have added over 16,000 NEW resources in 55 counties to PA-SHARE by the time this initial effort is completed.

We had identified a list of priority resource types to help guide the survey work. One of those priorities was to find and record the older and historic places that housed fraternal/social organizations.  This broad category includes places like Masonic lodges, Odd Fellows halls, and Elks clubs as well as veterans’ organizations like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts.

I was looking through the data recently and, given that we recognize Veterans’ Day this week, I thought I’d give our readers a look at what we’ve collected so far for two of the most popular veterans groups of the last century.

American Legion

The American Legion was chartered by the US Congress in 1919 as a patriotic service organization to veterans and active servicemembers. The Legion grew from a meeting in Paris, France in 1919 by the American Expeditionary Force after the end of WWI. Over the course of the 20th century, the Legion played significant roles in establishing things like the U.S. Veterans Bureau (1920), the GI Bill (1943), the American Heart Association (1946), and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (1982), among many other achievements.

American Legion posts can be found across Pennsylvania in cities and boroughs, often cited prominently on a main thoroughfare in the heart of the community. Constructed typically between the 1920s and the 1950s, American Legion buildings occupied buildings once used for another purpose or were purpose built to house the organization.

One story brick building with large arched windows, ramp, and lawn.

Kingston American Legion Post 395 on Wyoming Avenue in Kingston, Luzerne County, August 2022. PA-SHARE Resource #2022RE11929.

Today there are about 800 active posts across the commonwealth, meaning that we’ve captured only a small portion of these community institutions. You can learn more about the American Legion in Pennsylvania on their website.

To date, 75 American Legion posts were added through baseline survey, bringing the total number recorded in PA-SHARE to 111. Several posts have been documented in Clearfield, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Northampton, Schuylkill, Washington, and Wayne counties, with at least one in several more.

Three story building with infill construction on first two floors and original windows and details at top.

American Legion building on E. Centre Street in Mahanoy City, Schuylkill County, August 2022. PA-SHARE Resource #2022RE13822.


Veterans of Foreign Wars is an organization of US veterans who fought in wars, campaigns, and expeditions in foreign land, water, and air. Its roots can be traced back to the Spanish American War (1898) and Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902) an an aid and advocacy organization for veterans returning home with no medical or financial support.

In Pennsylvania, the Foreign Service Veterans was founded in Pittsburgh in 1901 and is one of the three original groups of what became Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States in August 1913. You can learn more about the VFW in Pennsylvania on their website.

Two story building on a main street with tree and car in front.

VFW Post 521 on Main Street in Honesdale, Wayne County, June 2022. PA-SHARE Resource #2022RE12614.

VFW posts across Pennsylvania come in all shapes and sizes. In some instances they share a building and in others they grew from houses, commercial buildings, or were purpose built for the organization. There are about 120 active posts in Pennsylvania and likely more former posts that no longer serve that function.

To date, 39 VFW posts were added to PA-SHARE from baseline survey, bringing the total to 55.  13 posts were documented in Luzerne county alone, with a few or more also identified in Clearfield, Mercer, Perry, and Susquehanna counties.

One story painted concrete block building surrounded by wooded area.

VFW Post 7252 on Route 219 in Snyder Township, Jefferson County, October 2021. PA-SHARE Resource #2021RE04105.

We’ve scratched the tips of the iceberg in terms of capturing all of the older and historic places that are associated with these two groups that serve our country’s vets. Identifying these places help tell important stories about our communities, commonwealth, and country.


  1. Craig William Dayton

    Thank you for this. It is a very noble task, in my opinion.

  2. Dennis Lapic

    As a 24-year Army reserve veteran I had the unique pleasure of serving over 10 years in a Military History Detachment. The primary function of an MHD was to document and to collect artifacts for whatever purpose we were assigned to. From the 11 September attack on the Pentagon, Hurricane Katrina Army involvement, or interviewing Army soldiers for their actions or participation in a war, battle or for whatever. This gave me a heightened awareness of our military past and present, during and after their service. So, when I see an old service club I try to make note of its presence, so was delighted to see your project. I found a club you may not be aware of. VFW Post 623 is now a residence where the owner has preserved the old post’s presence by retaining the signage and outside appearance. It is located at 826 Western Avenue, Pittsburgh. It was so well maintained that I attempted to enter it getting up the stairs then realizing it was a private residence whence I quickly fled. Another is the old Ambridge VFW on Duss Avenue that recently closed. What’s unique about this location is the second floor balcony/running track around the outer wall. It can still be accessed, but appears now to be only a weight lifting facility. If you want to know of more you need to get the word out to us older Vets of what exactly your goal is. Thanks

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