Memorial Hall opened in 1916 and was dedicated to veterans of World War I.(3) But as use of the building declined, especially post-World War II, revenues were not able to keep up with growing expenses. A 1972 note mentioned “worn out” mechanical systems.(3)
By the early 1980s, Memorial Hall was in such poor condition that electrical and plumbing systems were in need of constant repair.(1) Pipes and wires were described as rotting at the floor, and the dressing rooms were in such poor condition that performers refused to use them.
Voters at the May 8, 1984 primary were able to vote for Issue 1, a five-year, 1.1-mill levy placed on the ballot by the Clark County Commission to raise an estimated $5.4 million for the renovation of the building.(1) An estimated cost to replace the building from scratch was $7 million. The renovation plans included the replacement of the roof and heating, electrical and plumbing units, the installation of insulation, new seating, the reconfiguration of the balconies, and the addition of air conditioning. A small kitchen and concession would be added as well, and the stage would be expanded to accommodate “off Broadway” productions.
But the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and several members of the original Memorial Hall Task Force disagreed, stating that other idea should be considered to renovating Memorial Hall that would meet the needs of the community.(1) But the county commissioners kept the issue on the ballot, citing the need to move at an expedited pace due to liability issues.
Ultimately, Issue 1 failed to pass.(3)(5)
A May 2, 1985 report from the property manager of Memorial Hall stated that:(2)
- Only one boiler was in service and that the boilers do not meet present heating codes and were in violation of Environmental Protection Agency standards;
- The electrical system needed to be replaced due to a potential fire hazard when the circuits were overloaded;
- The water supply to the building was inadequate for fire protection;
- There was a leaking roof and inadequate heating that led to plaster deterioration;
- The restrooms did not meet ADA regulations;
- The windows were at the end of their lifespan;
- The roofing needed to be replaced;
- A crack in the chimney grew larger from the last inspection;
- The steam and water pipes needed to be replaced.
Voters at the May 7, 1985 primary were able to vote for Issue 1, which would renovate Memorial Hall.(2) But that issue also failed to pass, and in 1986, due to mechanical problems with the boilers and other internal systems, Memorial Hall was closed.(3)
On August 13, 1991, county commissioners approved placing a tax levy on the November 5 (5) ballot to raise $10 million to renovate Memorial Hall.(3) Financing would be via a .5 percent sales tax that would expire within three to four years, and bring in $3.5 million per year.(4) Renovation costs at the time were pegged at $8,568,738, and the building would be converted into a museum for the Clark County Historical Society.(3)(4) At the time, the building was home to 200,000 items that was being stored for the society.(4) The breakdown in costs included $550,000 in repairs to the parapet and other exterior features, $1.51 million for a climate controlled storage and restoration facility, and $2.05 million to build 15,000 square feet of exhibition space. A new building of comparative size would cost $12.5 million. Maintenance costs would run $197,330 per year, which included a full time maintenance worker.
The extra $2 million to $2.5 million raised from the levy would be placed into an escrow account, and interest earned from that would be used to pay for most of the operations and maintenance.(5)
- Saudlin, Steve. “Memorial Hall: To be or not to be?” Springfield News-Sun 29 Apr. 1984: 1, 8A.Print.
- Esmont, Erin. “County: Memorial Hall crumbling.” Springfield News-Sun 3 May 1985: n.p. Print.
- Lockwood, Rod. “Hall’s fate up to voters.” Springfield News-Sun 10 Aug. 1991: 1, 4. Print.
- Monaghan. “History museum may go before vote.” Springfield News-Sun 19 July 1991: n.p. Print.
- Lockwood, Rod. “Vote to decide hall’s fate.” Springfield News-Sun 14 Aug. 1991: 1, 5. Print.