The Veterans Memorial Hall program seeks to educate, preserve and collect the history of the veterans of northeast Minnesota.
Today, the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (the Depot) is home to a program called Veterans’ Memorial Hall; it is part of the St. Louis County Historical Society. But at one time, it was separate from the Society. A hundred years ago, it was called the Soldiers Memorial Room—a misleading name, for it was really a comfortable suite of rooms for the veterans’ community—and it was situated three blocks north of its current location, on the main floor of what was then the brand new St. Louis County Courthouse.
The Hall was used not only by the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) but also by the United Spanish War Veterans. Eventually, the location was used by many different veteran organizations, from the Disabled American Veterans to the Veterans of the World War. Its library had many pieces of memorabilia and books from the many different wars and engagements. It displayed items such as a WWI German machine gun and a Civil War era military drum.
But inevitably, as the years progressed, the number of GAR members diminished, and in 1926 the remaining two posts combined into the Gorman-Culver Post #13. The United Spanish War Veterans began operating the room. In 1954, the John McEwen Camp No. 6 of the United Spanish War Veterans celebrated their 56th anniversary in Memorial Hall. But eventually, even the Spanish War Veterans became such a small number that the hall had to be closed.
Officially at 11:37 am on Tuesday, October 19, 1965, Memorial Hall was locked up. Many of the items in the rooms were distributed among different regional veteran organizations and libraries. The remaining items in the room, such as the nine Springfield rifles and a dollar given by Albert Woolson, were sent to the Twin Cities Chapter the United Spanish War Veterans. But some of the the furniture and many other items were donated to the St. Louis County Historical Society or stored. This ended the first long chapter of Veterans' Memorial Hall at the courthouse.
Since then, Veterans' Memorial Hall has moved to the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (the Depot) and is maintained by the St. Louis County Historical Society and the military service veterans from the Arrowhead region. The speakers at the original dedication ceremony promised, “Your services to the country will be remembered so long as liberty is prized and the patriotic valor is remembered.” Veterans’ Memorial Hall aims to honor that statement. We have collected more than 1,500 artifacts and 6,000 veteran stories. Today, we have one of the largest collections of military items and veterans' stories in the state of Minnesota.