Memorial hall celebrates anniversary of dedication

Earlier this year the World War Memorial Hall in New England surpassed quite a milestone. It had been 80 years since construction crews first broke ground on the building.

The World War Memorial Hall has been a big part of the community of New England for the past 80 years. Labor Day weekend this year marked the 79th anniversary of the dedication. (PHOTO BY COLE BENZ | The Herald)
The World War Memorial Hall has been a big part of the community of New England for the past 80 years. Labor Day weekend this year marked the 79th anniversary of the dedication. (PHOTO BY COLE BENZ | The Herald)

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

Earlier this year the World War Memorial Hall in New England surpassed quite a milestone. It had been 80 years since construction crews first broke ground on the building.

But this past Labor Day marked another milestone in the history of the building, the official dedication in 1936.

The Hettinger County Building program was established in 1933 at the request of the federal government as a way to bring the country out of the depression, the building program overall was a $200,000 project.

County Commissioner Theo Monke spoke about the 1929 legislature that made this happen. Laws were passed that allowed counties to levy on mill tax for four years for the ‘purpose of building a memorial or memorial buildings.’ Though a similar program was established at the county level prior, they just added the two funds together.

Other projects included the Hettinger County Courthouse in Mott and the Memorial Bridge in Regent.

According to a past edition of the Hettinger County Herald—at the time based in New England—roughly 6,000 people attended the dedication.

The building was going to be a community center, home of the American Legion and also house the New England Public Library. The library has since relocated to its own building.

The hall held 1,000 people at a time as onlookers wanted a chance to see inside the new structure.

The ceremony opened with a welcoming speech from Gordon Gardner, who was mayor at the time. Previous mayor Harvey J. Miller also addressed the crowd. At the time of the dedication Miller was a judge of the sixth judicial district.

During his speech, Gardner touched on how the project came to life.

Along with federal mandates and establishing the Hettinger County Building Program, the county commissioners agreed that $12,000 of the Hettinger County World War Memorial fund would go towards the Memorial Hall construction if the city provided a ‘like’ amount. Gardner said the community approved the move unanimously, twice.

Money raised amounted to $22,000, and with that the federal government (through the P.W.A.) made a grant of 45 percent of $17,310. After the total amount was $2,500 short of their initial asking, the city rearranged some things and got the cost down to where it was feasible.

The general construction contract was awarded to contractor J.C. Beattie, plumbing was awarded to Dickinson Plumbing and Heating Co. The heating system of the building was installed by the Campbell Heating Co. from Des Moines, Iowa, with the electrical system work done by a firm from Bismarck. Five hundred chairs and other various fixtures were furnished by the Bismarck Tribune company.

The architects on the project were Ritterbach Brothers.

The day, according to records, afforded the community nice weather. The same couldn’t be said about the Hettinger County Court House dedication that was held on January 28 of 1936. The thermometer read minus 36 degrees below zero.

Earlier that morning volunteers were busy preparing food for the event. Sauerkraut would be served to some 2,500 people and started at 11:30 that morning. One hundred thirty-five gallons of saurekraut and 450 pounds of weiners were prepared for the event, ready for a large crowd.

At 11 a.m. the New England City band began playing ‘peppy tunes’ under the direction of William Herbster.

Reverend Charles M. Schneider commented at the ceremony:

“May this building stand as a symbol of Christian neighborliness as wells as a monument to the memory of our heroic dead.”

The hall in New Enlgand has stood as a symbol of the community. It has housed many events and get togethers that support community interaction.

Basketball has been played there, movies have been viewed there and much conversation has taken place in the very building.

The hall has seen improvements over years, especially in the early 90s.

The building was nearly 60 years old and was in dire need of renovations. So the New England Memorial Hall Renovation committee was formed, headed up by Ruth Fitterer. Other committee members included Londa Schwartz, Shannay Witte, Alex Stockert and John Plaggemeyer.

From 1991 to the end of the decade, funds were raised through grants and donations. Those who donated were recognized on a plaque that hangs on the wall today.

The improvements included the roof, electrical work, new furnishings and a remodeled basement that featured a relocated kitchen. Other features to the renovation included a coat room, meeting room, dining room, hallway/dress room, air conditioning, furnaces, sheet metal and painting. The project was nearly $80,000.

The materials and work were donated to the cause by community members and organizations that have a hand in the area.

Though it has been over 20 years since that renovation movement started, the improvements aren’t finished yet.

For the better part of the past year, Fitterer has headed up the efforts to install a lift elevator on the left side of the building.

Fitterer said the progress has not moved as quickly as she would like, but that the efforts are still ongoing and they have been working tirelessly at grants and other funding avenues.

It has been 80 years since shovels were first put in the ground, and for the next 80 years community members can look at the building and be reminded of New England history and community camaraderie.

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