Memorial Hall (1924)
​After World War I, when America was surrounded by a strong patriotic spirit, a memorial building was proposed to honor those who fought and died in wars for the United States. This site was selected because of its elevation and because it was, in the early 1920s, at roughly the north-south mid-point of the city.

In October 1922, Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw submitted a sketch for the proposed Memorial Hall. The drawing was unanimously approved by the common council and the memorial commission, which included Joseph Cooper, Herbert F. Johnson, George Herzog and William Horlick, Jr. The architectural styles are Classic Revival and Neoclassical. Materials chosen to construct the building included Indiana limestone, brick, and copper to cover the roof. The structure was constructed in 1924 at a cost of $525,000 and is approximately 40,000 square feet. The groundbreaking ceremony took place at the southwest corner of the building. Thomas Riley Marshall , Vice President under Woodrow Wilson, officiated. (Marshall is famous for the saying, “What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar.”)

Memorial Hall was funded by monies remaining from the war relief collection, as well as private funds raised through the American Legion Post No. 76, the Patriot fund and public donations. William Horlick Sr. made generous contributions to the project. 

The main facade faces south and features a two story raised portico in front of the end gable of the main roof. The portico is supported by four Corinthian columns. Centered above that is the seal of the state of Wisconsin flanked by two sculpted eagles. Incised into stone, over the main doors, are the words “We will not forget”. Inscribed at the corners of the west facade are the names of famous battles: Bunker Hill and Yorktown (Revolution) and Gettysburg and Vicksburg (Civil War) on the north corner; and Santiago and Manila Bay (Spanish-American War) and Chateau Thierry and Argonne (World War I) on the south corner. On the west steps are Napoleon cannons dated 1862 and 1863. Each has a four and one-half inch bore and shot twelve-pound cannonballs.

In 1940 Memorial Hall became a barracks for 132 men and six officers making up a National Guard contingent called into training. They stayed at the Hall for one week prior to leaving for Camp Shelby, Mississippi. In 1953 all recruits and draftees reported to Memorial Hall prior to being shipped out to various induction sites.

Memorial Hall has long served as a municipal auditorium and meeting place for patriotic and political organizations, a site for speeches and rallies. Politicians who have used the hall include Eleanor Roosevelt, presidential candidates Robert Taft, George Wallace, Hubert Humphrey, and Barack Obama. For many years Memorial Hall hosted Racine’s Post Prom, and it has seen great entertainers such as the Lettermen, Tanya Tucker and Loretta Lynn. Bands that performed on site included Ratt, Bad Boy, Journey, Styx and the Minneapolis Symphony.

This is the first time that this building, honoring the veterans of our community, has been on the Tour of Historic Places. Our thanks to Venu Works, the management team of the Racine Civic Centre facilities, for opening this landmark to us.