Inventory

Memorial Hall Association
Dates:  1910-1915
Accession Number:  830824C
Donor: Spencer F. Ball
Description:  Four file folders in a document case

History of Morton Post No. 1 and Memorial Hall

According to the History of the Grand Army of the Republic (SpC 369.151 B),  Morton Post No. 1, Terre Haute, organized with fifty-six charter members, May 11, 1879 as Post 51, Department of Illinois.  Captain John B. Hager, a prominent citizen and business man, was chosen as Post Commander, and in sixty days, the Post was recruited to 300 members. The earliest adjutant's report in this collection dates from 1880 and lists over 300 members.  The post was named in honor of Oliver P. Morton, Governor of Indiana at the outbreak of the Civil War.

According to the records of the Morton Post's Woman's Relief Corps, by 1940, there were only three surviving members of Morton Post No. 1.  "Comrade Chapelle" died on December 20, 1940 and "Comrade McKinney" died on July 18, 1941.  James Hutchinson, the last surviving member, is mentioned several times in the 1943-1948 minute book of the Morton Woman's Relief Corp.  Upon Hutchinson's death on July 10, 1944, Morton Post No. 1 automatically disbanded.  Hutchinson's obituary is in the Inventory folder for the collection.

As with other GAR posts, Morton Post No. 1 was very active on behalf of veterans and their widows and orphans.  However, their most enduring contribution to Vigo County and Terre Haute was the restoration of Memorial Hall, at 219 Ohio Street in Terre Haute.      

The former Memorial Hall is the oldest extant building in Terre Haute and the only example of Greek revival architecture.  From its opening in the mid-1830s until the 1880s, the building housed two banks, the Indiana State Bank and Terre Haute First National Bank. The latter bank relocated to a more thriving area of the business district and the building was sold to the Kussner family which owned a music shop next door.  The Kussners bought the building with the intention of attracting high quality commercial interests to occupy the building.  Unsuccessful in their efforts, the Kussners first leased the building to a junk dealer and then to a dealer in second-hand merchandise.  As the business district expanded even further east of 219 Ohio Street, the building was aban-doned and later inhabited by passing vagrants.  By 1910, the building, known as "The Old Curiosity Shop" following its occupancy by second-hand and junk dealers, was becoming an eyesore to the community but still was salvageable.

From its establishment in 1879 until 1910, the members of Morton Post No. 1 met on the first and third Thursdays of every month, mostly in the Savings Bank Building on 7th Street. Around the turn of the century, the members of Morton Post and Baird Post No. 592, Terre Haute's other GAR post, began to see the need for finding their own building in which they could provide more comfortable surroundings for their aging members to gather for their biweekly meetings and other social occasions.  Purchase and renovation of Memorial Hall was the most practicable solution available.

The opportunity to occupy the State Bank Building/Old Curiosity Shop came to fruition in 1910 as a result of financial windfalls enjoyed by Morton Post No. 1 and by the Vigo County Monumental Association.  Morton Post No. 1 had amassed $2,200 of profit from the entertainment and concession proceeds as host chapter of the annual encampment of the GAR's Indiana Department.  The Vigo County Monumental Associa-tion's successful efforts to erect a Civil War statue on the courthouse lawn, in 1909, led to a $2,500 surplus which the association agreed to contribute toward purchase of Memorial Hall.  The remainder of the money needed to purchase and renovate Memorial Hall was contributed by several leading members of the Morton Post and its affiliated organiza-tions augmented by donations from the remainder of the memberships of the Baird and Morton Posts and the citizens of the surrounding community. 

The purchase and renovation was put in the hands of a Memorial Hall Association consisting of 12 members: 3 citizens-at-large; 3 members from the Vigo County Monu-mental Association; one member each from Morton Post No. 1, Baird Post No. 592, the Union Veteran Legion and the Sons of Veterans; one member to represent the City of Terre Haute; and the chairman of the Executive Committee of Entertainment for the 31st encampment of the Indiana GAR.

According to a newspaper account of the time, the Memorial Hall Association spent $4,500.00 on the purchase and $5,000.00 on the renovation of the "Old Curiosity Shop".  Shortly after the Memorial Hall Association purchased the building, the GAR placed its initials as an inscription over the entrance and the building became formally known as the GAR Memorial Hall.  The front room of the building was designated as the club room and a second room was set aside as a museum of Civil War artifacts and pictures.  In recognition of its former and future occupants, the Memorial Hall Associa-tion commissioned paintings of former bank officers and famous Civil War veterans in the dome of the ceiling. In 1921, the Memorial Hall Association added a large meeting room to the rear of Memorial Hall.

The members of Morton Post No. 1 and its affiliate organizations began to meet in Memorial Hall in 1911. From that time until the 1980s, several groups used Memorial Hall as a meeting site including the Disabled American Veterans, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Vigo County REACT, the Friendship Home Economic Club, and several church groups. The building has been privately owned since the 1980s.

Content and Scope of Collection

Resolution, letters, clippings and specifications pertaining to the rehabilitation of  the Indiana State Bank Building on Ohio Street are contained in these folders. 

Document Case

 

 

 

 

 

Folder 1

Resolution to form Association

June 15, 1910

 

 

 

 

Letter to Baird Post No. 592 G. A. R.
  Dedication of Memorial Hall

n.d.

 

 

 

Folder 2

Subscription lists and related materials

1910, 1911

 

 

 

Folder 3

Correspondence about Memorial
  Spencer Ball

1911-1912

 

 

 

Folder 4

Specifications

n.d.

 

 

 

 

Photograph of Old Curiosity Shop

n.d.

 

 

 

 

Clippings

1911