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Important moments in history of Soldiers & Sailors

Monday, August 13, 2001

1891 — The local posts of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans from the Civil War, introduce the idea of a memorial hall to recognize veterans of the “War for the Suppression of the Rebellion of the Southern Slaveholders,” known today as the Civil War.

1906 — Land is purchased in Oakland for purpose of building the memorial.

1907-08 — Construction of the building, which was designed after the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The architect was Henry H. Hornbostel.

1910 — Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall was officially dedicated “in honor of soldiers, sailors and marines from Allegheny County who served in defense of the Union.” The hall was managed by a board of Civil War veterans.

1936 — After $200,000 in federal Works Progress Administration money is spent to rehabilitate the hall, Hornbostel calls for it to be used as a meeting hall, for public and political meetings. Colonel C.H. William Ruhe, superintendent of the hall, disagrees. “The people were not creating a public hall, but a memorial for soldiers,” he says.

1946-47 — Allegheny County installs a new acoustics system and public address system and appropriated $47,000 to improve the roof and elevators.

1947 — A Pittsburgh Press story describes Soldiers & Sailors as “Oakland’s White Elephant,” which has “had about as much activity as a deserted monastery.” Political, un-American, controversial and foreign language meetings were prohibited; dancing, smoking and liquor were blacklisted.

1963 — The hall is rededicated to honor the memory of all veterans from all wars in which the United States may be engaged.

1967 — Pittsburgh History and Landmarks bestows “Landmark” status on the hall.

1974 — The hall is entered into the National Register of Historic Places.

1979 — The ship’s bell, from the U.S.S. Pittsburgh, is mounted on the front patio and dedicated.

1987 — The International Peace Pole is placed near the front door, a gift of an international visitor.

1988 — The veterans board sues Allegheny County after the commissioners fail to provide enough money for the hall to operate.

1989 — A parking garage is built under the front lawn of the hall as a way to generate additional revenues.

1991 — The hall is designated as a city historic structure by city resolution.

2000 — The hall leaves the control of Allegheny County and becomes an independent, nonprofit trust.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. © Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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