Logan County History: Memorial Hall

SHARE NOW

By: Mary E. Mortimer

Memorial Hall was built at the corner of Opera and Court Streets in Bellefontaine in honor of the soldiers of Logan County who fought in the Civil War. William Kauffman was the architect and James McKinney, of Lima, was the contractor.

On September 27, 1894, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) held the cornerstone dedication ceremony of Memorial Hall. Governor William McKinley, who later became the 25th President of the United States, laid the cornerstone and gave an “eloquent and patriotic speech.”

On August 17, 1895, Memorial Hall was formally dedicated with Robert P. Kennedy, Logan County historian and Civil War Veteran, giving the opening speech. Kennedy said, “Long after this generation has passed away this Memorial will stand as a loving tribute from the men and women of Logan County to the valor and devotion of men who gave their lives that this country might live and be transmitted to the generations to come.” GAR Commander J.D. Emerson also gave an address. A new American flag donated by the Women’s Relief Corps was raised and the Star-Spangled Banner was sung. Music was provided by Stamm’s Pythian Band.

A grand parade was held with members of the Eugene Reynolds GAR Post No. 441, the Eugene Reynolds Women’s Relief Corps No. 156, various lodge members, men and women on horseback floats, and eighty-two business display carriages containing distinguished guests. Downtown buildings were decorated with large streamers and banners.

Memorial Hall had gas and electric fittings installed throughout the building and “elaborate toilet conveniences”. The total cost of the structure was approximately $20,000. The GAR Hall located on the lower floor was finished in oak, and richly carpeted and upholstered. On the left of the entrance hallway was a museum, and a library on the right. Portraits of famous soldiers and statesmen hung on the walls. The museum featured Civil War relics, and county artifacts given or loaned for exhibition. A crayon drawing of Eugene Reynolds, believed to be the first Logan County soldier killed in the Civil War, and after whom the post was named, was hung above the GAR Commander’s chair. The Teachers Institute, an office, and a parlor were located on the second floor. The Eugene Reynolds GAR Post, Women’s Relief Corps, and the Will Riddle Sons of Veterans provided the furnishings for Memorial Hall.

The Logan County Index reported in July 1897: “One 30 lb. Parrot gun, for the north side of the steps of Memorial Hall, and one 8-inch Howitzer for the south side of the steps, and one 8-inch Mortar to be placed inside, together with 14 shot and shell to make a pyramid of balls for each piece, also two stands of arms complete. The guns are all relics of the late war and were in actual service during the entire conflict.”

In June 1898, two life-sized cast concrete statues designed and sculpted by local artist Warren Cushman were placed at the entrance of Memorial Hall. One statue was of a Civil War soldier and the other a sailor. Two Bellefontaine men posed for the statues. The sailor was modeled by Warren Cushman’s son, Byron G. “Bun” Cushman, and the soldier was modeled by Earl F. Detrick, with the likeness of Eugene Reynolds. The cement for the statues was furnished by George Bartholomew, who is credited with the invention of concrete pavement. Each statue weighed about 900 lbs. each.
The Daily Examiner reported in January 1921, “The County Commissioners have turned Memorial Hall over to the soldiers”. At that time, the Eugene Reynolds GAR Post and kindred organizations occupied the first floor, and the American Legion occupied the second floor and basement. The Logan County Board of Elections which had an office on the second floor was relocated to another building. The room the Board of Elections had occupied was to be remodeled into a reading room for the American Legion. The only county office that was left in the building at that time was the County Superintendent of Schools.

The statues were removed in 1962 due to vandalism and deterioration. New smaller replicas of the originals were sculpted by local artist Mike Major and placed in front of Memorial Hall. The new statues were formally dedicated by members of the American Legion Harold Kerr Post #173 and the Logan County Commissioners on Veteran’s Day 2018.

Over the years Memorial Hall has seen many updates and changes but has always been a place to honor our Veterans. The Logan County Veterans Services Office located in Memorial Hall provides a wide range of services for Veterans including financial assistance, free transportation to the Dayton and Columbus VA Medical Centers, healthcare applications, and much more. For more information on Veteran’s Services visit co.logan.oh.us/227/Veterans-Services

Visit the Logan County History Center at 521 E. Columbus Ave., Bellefontaine, Ohio 43311, to learn more interesting aspects of Logan County History. The History Center is open for tours Wednesday – Sunday from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.