Memorial Hall, located in Ironton, Ohio, opened on September 22, 1892 on the site of a former market place at Railroad and North 4th streets.1 Dedicated to the Grand Army of the Republic, the Women’s Relief Corps, American Expeditionary Forces and the Spanish-American War soldiers, the building housed a library and relics from the war and later the city hall and jail. It was abandoned in 1996.
Constructed for $20,000 9 by the Yost and Packard Architectural firm of Columbus to honor Civil War Veterans,4 the building was dedicated to the Grand Army of the Republic, the Women’s Relief Corps, American Expeditionary Forces and the Spanish-American War soldiers.4 The original deed from 1889 stated that the building could be used only for Union soldiers, their widows and orphans, and that it would contain a library and be a place for “relics of a patriotic nature.”9
In 1905, a fire burned most of the structure that left only the front stone facade and tower, taking with it the Briggs Public Library.1 2 Memorial Hall was soon rebuilt and used as a library. The building also suffered from the Ohio River floods of 1913 and 1933 but no major damage was reported.4 After the library moved out in the 1960s, the building housed the Ironton city jail and city hall 3 until 1996, when a deteriorating roof, floor joist, and stairs led to its closure.4
Joe Unger, notable local businessman proposed that the building be restored as a site for a veterans’ home.6 It’s desirability include its short distance to the downtown and local government offices, and that it would be at the foot of a proposed Ironton-Russell Bridge.
A violent thunderstorm on August 16, 2007 damaged the front entrance framing of Memorial Hall after a sudden drop in barometric pressure caused a vortex to form inside the building and compromised the doorway.4 An assessment report from Doug Cade of engineering company E.L. Robinson was not promising. The report stated that while the exterior framing was in great condition, the inside was in “dire shape.”5 The two recommendations given to the City Council included a tear-down or restoration, estimated to cost $200,000 and $7.7 million, respectively. A third option would be to gut the building and to erect a steel structure on the outside to keep the building standing as a monument; it would cost $500,000. The latter option is currently being considered, to be built in conjunction with an open air park.7
The interior would require complete removal because the floors that were held up by wooden joists were rotting due to extensive water damage.5 7 The building also featured a leaking roof, asbestos contamination and lead paint.5 City council members were not comfortable at the thought of a tear-down, but were unsure if there were funds available to repair the building.5 The city pursued grants for structural assessment.7
On June 24, 2008, a town hall meeting hosted by Mayor Rich Blankenship allowed citizens and architects to voice their opinion regarding the future of Memorial Hall.8 Architects Walker and Associates presented a plan to demolish the interior of the structure, install steel bracing for support, and convert the building site into a park with a stage at a cost of $240,000.8 9 The bracing would also be load-bearing, so that in the future, floors could be reinstalled.9
One citizen proposed a bed and breakfast and an office, although the architects stated that any building renovation would range from $3 million to $4 million which made such a proposal economically unfeasible.9
On November 24, representatives from American Legion Post 433 stated that they would join other veterans groups in an attempt to save Memorial Hall.10 The post sought the support of other local veterans groups, and in the future, state and national groups through campaigns. The Post hosted the Memorial Hall Festival on August 15, 2009 in a fundraising effort to help restore the building, 11 and formed the Veterans Memorial Hall Restoration Fund, a non-profit founded for the purpose of the building’s restoration.12
The Post had hoped to receive a grant from the federal government for $2.4 million extended over the course of 10 years, deposited into the non-profit, but in order to obtain the grant, the non-profit would have had to own the building.12 The city had planned to transfer the building to the Ironton Port Authority, who would have then transferred it to the non-profit if it could raise $500,000 towards the restoration within two years. The agreement was made in April 2010. Unfortunately, the group was only able to raise $20,000 12 and gave up their private fundraising efforts.13
A structural assessment of Memorial Hall was conducted on May 6, 2011.12 In June, E.L. Robinson, Ironton’s engineering consultant, recommended that the building be demolished because restoration costs could be as high as $8 million, although a tear down would cost $250,000.13
In early 2012, Mayor Blankenship approached county commissioners about the possibility of transferring ownership of the building from the city to the county.13 Possible reuse potential included a countywide emergency operations center for dispatchers and emergency medical services. The county had applied for a $1 million Homeland Security grant a year prior for that specific purpose, however, only 14 of those grants were given out across the United States and the city did not make the cut.
In early 2014, the city engineer estimated that the cost of partially demolishing Memorial Hall was $118,000, but when bids were opened, zero bids were received.14 A second round of bidding also produced no results.15 On the third attempt, two bids were received for $127,000 and $158,000.
Demolition began in early June by Southern Ohio Salvage.16 17 Officials were hopeful that portions of the building could be saved for incorporation into a veterans memorial park.
- Kouns, Sharon Milich. “Ironton through the years.” Lawrence Register. 24 Jan. 2004. 15 July 2006 Article.
- Kounse, Martha J. “Chronological year of events of Lawrence County Ohio.” Lawrence Register. 2 Jan. 2004. 15 July 2006 Article.
- Hager, Sharon Gossett. “Historic Homes of Ironton, Ohio.” Lawrence County Recorder. 15 July 2006 Article.
- Shaffer, Mark. “Old city hall damaged.” Ironton Tribune 28 Aug. 2007.
- Shaffer, Mark. “Council in limbo on Memorial Hall.” Ironton Tribune 28 Aug. 2007.
- Unger, Joe. “Memorial Hall logical site for veterans’ home.” Herald-Dispatch (Huntington) 12 March 1999.
- Shaffer, Mark. “City looks to save Ro-Na.” Ironton Tribune 6 June 2008. 7 June 2008 Article.
- Shaffer, Mark. “Memorial Hall ideas discussed.” Ironton Tribune 24 June 2008. 27 June 2008 Article.
- Shaffer, Mark. “Architect talks about possible building uses.” Ironton Tribune 29 July 2008. 27 June 2008 Article.
- Greene, Rick. “Vets to take shot at Memorial Hall.” Ironton Tribune 25 Nov. 2008. 26 Nov. 2008 Article.
- Heath, Benita. “Festival to raise funds for Memorial Hall.” Ironton Tribune 1 Aug. 2009. 13 Aug. 2009 Article.
- Kersey, Lori. “Coming Down Soon?” Ironton Tribune. 25 April 2011. 6 May 2011. Article.
- Heath, Benita. “Memorial Hall might get new owners.” Ironton Tribune 19 Jan. 2012: n. pag. 20 Jan. 2012. Article.
- “Memorial Hall demo discussed by council.” Ironton Tribune 3 Mar. 2014: n. pag. 13 May 2014. Article.
- “2 bids received for demo.” Ironton Tribune 9 Apr. 2014: n. pag. 13 May 2014. Article.
- “Memorial Hall demo necessary.” Ironton Tribune 1 June 2014: n. pag. 1 July 2014. Article.
- Roberts, Brandon. “Memorial Hall demo progressing.” Ironton Tribune 10 June 2014: n. pag. 1 July 2014. Article.