The Inspiration for Buchanan Hall – A Daughter’s Wedding
As the story goes, in the 1920s Brigadier General James A. Buchanan wanted to build an elegant hall in Upperville for his daughter’s wedding, and so he constructed the building that later came to be called Buchanan Hall.
The Hall has served as Upperville’s community center ever since.
In the early 1930s, the owners of the Buchanan Hall land at that time, Mrs. Anne C. Dulany and Mr. H. Rozier Dulany, Jr., decided to donate the land and building to a nonprofit that would carry on its central role in the life of the community. On May 25, 1933, they and others created 501(c)3 charitable organization for this purpose under the simple name of “Buchanan Hall” in recognition of General Buchanan’s construction of the building and his gift of its use to the community.
As stated in the founding documents, the Buchanan Hall nonprofit corporation would own and operate the building as Upperville’s community center, noting that it was established “to hold meetings of a civic, patriotic, social, religious, educational and charitable nature.” The first trustees appointed to the board on that date were Mrs. Anne C. Dulany, president; Mr. H. Rozier Dulany, Jr., secretary; and A. Cook Reid, trustee. On June 9, 1933, in fulfillment of their plan, the Dulanys very generously donated the Buchanan Hall land and building to the new nonprofit. Since then, Buchanan Hall has served as the cornerstone of social, cultural and civic events for Upperville and is adored by both the community and out-of-town guests.
In 1942, the structure of Buchanan Hall was assessed to be in need of repair. A new trustee committee was appointed that named Mrs. Paul Mellon, Chairman; Lieut. Walter J. Williams as Vice-Chairman, Rozier Dulany, secretary; and Mrs. Joseph G. Gibson, treasurer. Mrs. William G. Fletcher and Mrs. Thomas Glascock were also members of the committee.
The building renovation proceeded as funded by private contributions solicited by the members of the committee. Upon completion, an article titled “Upperville’s Latest Community Project is Brought to Close” appeared in the Nov. 5, 1942 issue of the Fauquier Times-Democrat. The article states, “the building will be used by churches, charitable organizations, the Red Cross and the Boy Scouts for free. Dances and private parties will be charged a nominal fee. Also, in the event that Washington is evacuated, the hall will be needed for hospital use or canteen service.”
Since the 1942 renovation, little capital repair had been done and time had left the building largely unusable. In the spring of 2000, a community meeting was held at the Upperville Volunteer Fire Department to discuss options for Buchanan Hall. Out of that meeting came a concerted effort by a group of community volunteers to assess the continuing need for a community center and the options available.
After several months of intense activity, a plan was presented to a newly elected Board of Trustees that recommended the renovation of Buchanan Hall. To be functional as a modern community center and to serve the purposes identified in the assessment study, the building needed to be expanded to twice its original size.
Undaunted by the cost estimates for the renovation, the new Board retained local architect Ms. Pam Albers to draw up plans and construction proceeded in 2005 under the watchful eye of volunteer project manager and community member Mr. Bill Ridge. The improvements included a new kitchen and two new restrooms on the west side, a new backstage area with a support space on the south side, the enclosure of two thirds of the terrace for office space and the creation of a vestibule on the east side. The building was also made wheelchair accessible and more easily usable for people with disabilities.
The renovation was a complete success. Today, we can once again say that Upperville has a modern community center for the benefit of all its citizens and guests. The project cost of $900,000 was paid through $600,000 in private donations and a bank loan of $300,000. The board continues to enjoy the community’s support and raises funds successfully each year to operate Buchanan Hall and to pay down the mortgage.
The “Sea Hero Endowment Fund” was established in 2013 to provide a vehicle for donors to make a gift to support Buchanan Hall in perpetuity. The fund idea took wing when The Estate of Paul Mellon graciously offered to make a $25,000 matching grant toward the establishment of an endowment fund, the income from which could be used to support community events and building maintenance. Upon learning of this grant, the Gale Family Foundation generously offered to double the size of the matching grant by adding another $25,000.
The community rose to the occasion once again and donated the matching $50,000 so that an initial endowment fund of $100,000 was invested as of December 31, 2013, one full year ahead of schedule. The fund was appropriately named after Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s 1993 Kentucky Derby winner in recognition of the consistent and substantial support that the Mellons provided for Buchanan Hall through the decades.