Clinton Community Hall gets a make-over

Lee Wexler patiently mounts an historical photo of Clinton on the wall of the Clinton Community hall, which turns 100 this year. The hall has been refurbished and is available for meetings, dances and other public activities. - Jeff VanDerford
Lee Wexler patiently mounts an historical photo of Clinton on the wall of the Clinton Community hall, which turns 100 this year. The hall has been refurbished and is available for meetings, dances and other public activities.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

CLINTON — Lee Wexler is in a race against time. And it’s sure to be a photo finish.

Wexler is assembling a photographic record of Clinton’s past before Memorial Day on a formerly desolate interior wall of the Clinton Community Hall.

“Every day I go to work,” he said.

“It’s a challenge and I’m a problem solver,” Wexler added.

Not to mention being an expert at recreating historical records. From 1999 to 2001, Wexler spent a thousand hours refurbishing the interior of the Langley Historical Museum.

It’s been 100 years — specifically, Oct. 1 1907 — since the first community association was formed in the small village on Whidbey Island’s southeastern shore.

And the place where the group calls home, the 2,000-square-foot hall, began its renewal last November as local volunteers gathered to rescue the Clinton Progressive Association, which had dwindled to five members. They held an election and resolved to put the association and the building on a firm financial basis.

Newly-elected president Jack Lynch realized last fall the importance of bringing both the hall and association back to life.

“Like any organization, at some point interest was lost and there was no active cultivation for new members,” Lynch said.

The new executive committee spearheaded a drive to correct that. Today there are more than 100 members and the hall, built in 1947 near the site of the original, is taking on a new life.

The maple hardwood floor has been re-finished, a lot of “stuff” has been cleared away, the bathrooms were given a new coat of paint and the kitchen was updated.

“We’re trying to bring the hall back to its former glory,” Sheila Sebree said.

“It needs to be able to sustain itself and we’ve already started renting it out to local groups for meetings. These buildings are the jewels of the island and are irreplaceable,” she said.

Sebree added that the association is non-partisan, non-denominational and non-profit.

Oh, and if anyone has a stove they’d like to donate, Sebree can be reached at 341-1651. “Call me and we’ll work out the details.”

One key factor to getting people energized occurred last winter during the numerous power outages.

“It was then when many of us realized that we have a lot of single elderly folk who would love a place to go to stay warm and have a hot drink,” said association secretary Elisa Miller. “We have an important community asset here in this facility which could function as a place to go in times of emergencies.”

“We’ve begun a dialogue with the local Red Cross to become a qualified, official Red Cross emergency warming shelter,” she added.

Most of the work to date has been done by civic-minded volunteers. Guys like Wexler.

“In one of the early meetings, I brought a proposal of how I’d do the wall,” Wexler recalled with a laugh. “Someone said, ‘How many want Lee to do the work?’ Everyone raised their hands. So here I am.”

The display has old photos, maps and legends showing what Clinton was like back in the day, including a faded picture of the original hall with a sign proclaiming, “Last Chance Dance.” Wexler has started adding family photos of people, both new and old, and hopes to get Clintonites to contribute some of their own (call him at 341-1264).

The town was named early in the last century by Edward and Henry Hinman after their hometown in Michigan. The brothers realized the commercial potential of fresh water and cordwood for the steamboats plying the waters of Puget Sound.

One discolored map shows a four-mile logging railway that once ran down to the water’s edge at Glendale where a ferry landing stood halfway between the current dock and Possession Point.

Wexler moved here from California, where he was a graphic arts design teacher at California State University in Los Angeles. He had his own design firm, where he came up with the logo for Linds Pharmacy which graces all their shopping bags. His skills are evident as he carefully affixes photos to the wall using a cleat-and-museum-wax system of his own invention.

The official reopening of the hall is timed with the Clinton Days celebration, May 26-28.

On Saturday, May 26, the association will hold a barbecue fundraiser, followed by a dance sponsored by the South Whidbey Parks & Recreation District.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or

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