Lynn City Council President Darren Cyr is helping to lead the charge to raise money to pay for the restoration of the Grand Army of the Republic building on Andrew Street where a block party will be held Saturday from 3-5 p.m. (Jim Wilson)

A Grand salute in Lynn this Saturday

LYNN — Andrew Street will host a block party Saturday afternoon and the guest of honor is the Grand Army of the Republic building and its treasure trove of Civil War history.

The newly-formed Friends of the Grand Army of the Republic of Lynn Museum is organizing the party as a way to showcase the 58 Andrew St. building and ramp up efforts to raise money for its restoration.

Scheduled from 3-5 p.m., the party includes food and refreshments for a small price, entertainment with a visit by an actor portraying 19th century orator Frederick Douglass, and a Civil War band and tours of the Grand Army building. Andrew Street runs between Central Avenue and Market Street.

"We're going to kick off fundraising. The goal is to raise money for the restoration of the building and its contents," said City Council President and Friends member Darren Cyr.

Once the meeting place for more than 2,000 Union Army veterans in the late 19th century, the building became a city property held in trust "forever and a day" in 1919. Its floors are filled with Civil war exhibits featuring uniforms, weapons, correspondence signed by Abraham Lincoln and one of the last Confederate flags to fly over Richmond, Va.

The building's centerpiece is the meeting hall with its upholstered benches and 1,243 photographs of Civil War veterans.

A student of history, Cyr became fascinated with the Grand Army building and its collection following a tour. He resolved to work with other city residents to launch a fundraising effort to complete current repairs, including ones needed to ensure the structural soundness of the building's brick facade.

"When I heard about all the issues and problems in the building, I realized the city hasn't stepped up and done its share," Cyr said.

Fellow Friends members include realtor Christopher Bibby, Downtown Lynn Cultural District Director Carolyn Cole, Highlands resident Wendy Joseph, city Veterans Services Director Michael Sweeney, Civil War historian Dexter Bishop, walking tour organizer Michelle Guzman, and Lynn resident Richard Parker.

City attorney and history buff James Lamanna is assisting the group. The Grand Army building is overseen by a board of trustees.

Bishop said a national gathering of Sons of Union Veterans members this summer included a tour of the Grand Army building that left members "awestruck" at the collection of historical items and photography.

"They walked away from the hall saying, 'Wow,'" Bishop said.

Cyr hopes Saturday's tours will have an equal emphasis on fun and history with participants viewing the building's "haunted mirror" and hearing how John Stackhouse, whose photograph hangs in the meeting hall, escaped slavery and made his way north to fight with the Union Army's famed 54th Massachusetts Regiment.

Cyr said future efforts to highlight the Grand Army building include a documentary linking the stories and photographs of Civil War veterans enshrined in the hall with their descendants, including current Lynn residents.

The Friends are also planning a fundraising telethon in conjunction with Lynn Community Television and spring cocktail party with a long list of invited guests.

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