Memorial Hall Study
The City of Joplin has hired SFS Architecture to perform a study about the future possible uses of Memorial Hall. The City is interested in taking a creative and innovative approach to reviewing the needs of the community, the possible future options for Memorial Hall, while obtaining open-ended public input about the options.
It is the goal of the City to obtain public input, while utilizing industry knowledge, to provide information to assist the city in determining the best recommended use of Memorial Hall on behalf of the community well into the future.
Memorial Hall is located at 212 West 8th Street in Joplin, Missouri. Memorial Hall is Joplin’s only Veteran’s Memorial and Community Center with a seating capacity of 2,750.
According to The Joplin Globe archives, city officials first began considering plans for a war memorial in November 1918. In January of 1920, the Robert S. Thurman Post of the American Legion and the Women’s Auxiliary began preliminary plans for a campaign to provide Joplin with a suitable memorial hall in honor of the men who served in the war against Germany. In a special election in July of 1923, Joplin voters approved a proposal for issuing bonds to provide for the construction of Memorial Hall. The election effort was sponsored by the American Legion. Members of the Joplin City Commission informally approved school property at 8th Street and Joplin Avenue as the site for a new Memorial Hall in October of 1923.
In August of 1924, construction of the $250,000 Memorial Hall began. A.S. Greenwell was awarded the contract for construction of the Hall. He was quoted as saying, “The building may be used as an opera house and convention hall. The auditorium will seat 4,110 persons. The stage will be larger than that of Joplin’s largest theater. The auditorium will measure 187 feet long, running north and south, and 140 feet wide. On the first floor, plans call for a seating capacity of 2,497 persons. The entire auditorium, balcony and stage, are designed to be as magnificent as a building constructed for the purpose of an opera house alone.” Plans called for a two-and-a-half story structure, covering almost the entire site between Joplin and Wall Streets and Eighth street to within a short distance of Ninth street. The front entrance would support four massive pillars and contain five double-door entrances and face Eighth Street.
A large crowd attended ceremonies dedicating the new Memorial Hall in October 1925. The News Herald stated, “In a spirit of patriotism and reverence, Joplin’s Memorial hall was dedicated yesterday. Built as a tribute to the sacrifices of those who served their country in time of war, the massive structure was consecrated in peace. The building was dedicated as a monument to three generations of defenders of the flag.” Quarters in the new Memorial Hall were set aside for use by the Robert S. Thurman Post, American Legion, and Auxiliary when the building was opened in 1925.
Utilization of Memorial Hall has evolved through the years as needs have changed through the reflection of our changing community. Future utilization will be impacted with the addition of the future Cornell Cultural Center being built in front of Memorial Hall.
The City has asked SFS Architecture to evaluate and answer the following questions:
- Provide a structural analysis of Memorial Hall
- What is the appropriate use of Memorial Hall or this area in general?
- Can our community support the facility as a concert venue, considering the current arrangement with Connect2Culture for Memorial Hall and their plans for the facility?
- Should Memorial Hall be remodeled for a different purpose, such as a multi-purpose civic center providing space for community/civic use, parks department programming, meeting space, limited sports programming space, usage by veterans group, small convention space opportunities, and/or emergency operations use? Are there other possible uses?
- Analyze and discuss what is available in the community for concert type venues, such as Missouri Southern State University facilities, Joplin R-VIII School District facilities, the surrounding casino’s, and the Cornell Cultural Center.
- Analyze and discuss what is available in the community for civic uses or meeting space, etc.