A grand dedication was held for Montgomery County’s Memorial Hall during the first week of January in 1910.
The event was front page news for the city’s newspapers. The Dayton Daily News reported “another red-letter day has been added to the chronology of the Gem City for … one of the grandest pieces of architecture of which any city in this land can boast.”
Planning for the building had begun years before by a group of Civil War veterans who “congregated together” and came up with the idea to erect the memorial, according to the Jan. 5, 1910 edition of The Journal Herald newspaper.
For $52,000, a site was purchased at “two of Dayton’s finest streets,” the corner of East First and St. Clair.
The construction costs for Memorial Hall were detailed in The Journal Herald and included the price of a smoke stack, $1,250; brick, $3,073.27; electric fixtures, $1,500; and “decoration of walls,” $4,275. The final cost for the project was $263,532.
The community turned out at noon for the dedication, which was filled with addresses by generals, colonels and judges, as well as songs by the Dayton Glee Club.
A parade, led by the Sons of Veterans drum corps, formed at Jefferson Street and marched to a flagstaff at the southeast corner of the building. There, the marchers were joined by area schoolchildren under the watch of Dayton’s then-Superintendent of Schools, E. J. Brown.
Numerous speeches were made congratulating all involved including the architect, William Earl Russ, the son of a soldier who “had left an arm on one of the bloody fields.”
The building was designed as a “palace of peace,” but also to be a gathering place for the community. Exposition space, an auditorium and a historical library were a few of the amenities inside the building designed in “a modern Americanized version of the French Renaissance.”
The ceremony wrapped up with the presentation of a silk flag by “Old Guard Post 23,” one of the initial groups that planned the project.
“I am proud of having the honor of planting the seed from which has grown this beautiful and useful building,” Doren Bates said on behalf of the guard post.
“There is no inanimate object that has exerted so great an influence over the people of this world or has been such a prime factor in shaping their destinies as that most beautiful of all banners, Old Glory.
“And as it so proudly floats from the staff, it proclaims to the world that their sufferings and sacrifices were not in vain, that through their services the government of the people, by the people, and for the people did not perish from the earth.”