Memorial Hall

     After the Civil War, a building was designed in memory of the Union soldiers and sailors, both living and dead. The building was called the Soldiers’ Memorial Hall. The name was later shortened to Memorial Hall. On February 6, 1891, Market Square was chosen as the sight for the building. The ground breaking did not occur until May 26, 1891. The corner stone was laid on July 28, 1891.
     J. W. Yost of Columbus, Ohio was chosen to design Memorial Hall. The building was designed to be 60 by 117 feet, 134 feet long, and 30 feet tall. A tower was added which stood 104 feet high. Hocking Valley brick was used in construction. The main entry way faced Railroad Street. The building would cost $20,000.
     Dedication ceremonies were held on October 12, 13, and 14, 1892. A parade of soldiers occurred the day after the last dedication ceremony. Captain E. H. Ewing wrote and read the following poem to mark the occasion.
You’ve summoned those who wore the blue, 

Diagram of the original Memorial Hall floorplan
This floorplan is of the original Memorial Hall. It appeared in the Ironton newspaper to announce the dedication of the building. 

And called again the roll anew:
     A grizzled few have heard the call;
But most have passed beyond the bound
That hedges life from death, and found
     The final camp that waits us all.

Whatever in that camp may be
Of joy or peace or revelry,
     There’s something on this side of love,
Companionship as oft renewed
As it may be, and still imbued
     With all ascribed to it above.

The soul of man unsatisfied
Without a kindred soul beside,
     Still reaches out to grasp the chain
Whose links are made of during steel
That enters in the woe or weal
     Of common danger, toil or pain.

Such are the links that firmly bind
Old comrades each to each; they find
     Men growing stronger with the years;
The rust may come, but there is strength
That does not fail until at length
     Death comes, and they dissolve in tears.

God blessed gratitude that finds
Expression in the noble minds
     That have conceived this temple grand,
And by the means their hands have earned
And beauties that their souls discerned,
     This house and its adornings stand.

Stand ever as a witness true
Of all our heroes sought to do;
     Stand witness of the men who died,
Whose eyes see not because they sleep
Whose children may be here to weep,
     Whose spirit may be here beside.

Stand witness of the men who live,
Who offered all they had to give:
     Their eyes the evidence behold
That love for freedom has a price
That pauses not to ponder twice
     Its value as compared with gold.

By Capt. E. H. Ewing

     The new building was to include the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) Hall, Relic Room, library room, library delivery room, stock room, librarian’s office, G.A.R. anteroom, trustee room, kitchen and a stage. The library room housed the first Briggs Lawrence County Public Library. 

Memorial Hall as it appeared after the 1905 fire
This photograph shows the damage done to the building during the 1905 fire. 

     On December 18, 1905, the building was destroyed by fire. Only the tower, the first floor walls and the foundation was undamaged. The building was repaired and restored and was used until a few years ago.
     The American Legion held their first meeting in Memorial Hall after it was formed in World War I.
     Al Lester, an Ironton artist, painted a sign in the large circle over the front door.
     In 1967, the building underwent renovations. In May 1967, the building was sandblasted to restore the original color of the brick. By the time the renovations were finished, the Memorial Hall housed many local offices including the police department, the prison located on the ground floor, city manager, city auditor, water department staff, traffic bureau, municipal court, and recreation bureau.