Memorial Building honors past, present

Community drive in 1927 raises funds to build structure that serves as living tribute

Series: Quintessential Hinsdale | Story 2

The stately brick structure known as the Memorial Building sits atop a hill in the heart of Hinsdale. Built nearly a century ago as a standing, living tribute to those who fought in the first World War, it serves as a hub for the workings of the entire village.

After a call to action from the editor of The Doings newspaper in 1927, the community quickly came together to form the Hinsdale Memorial Building Committee. The committee of Hinsdaleans designed the plan for the building and went door to door in an effort to raise the $150,000 needed to see the plan to fruition.

In less than a week, the goal was nearly met, and as the story goes, donations were obtained from all but two Hinsdale residents. In the end, Hinsdaleans contributed $171,000, resulting in the building that today serves as Hinsdale's Village Hall and houses the Hinsdale Public Library, HCS Family Services and the American Legion.

The building was dedicated on Independence Day, 1928. Its rotunda, whose official name is "The Shrine of Memory," features a marble sculpture titled "The Victory of Hinsdale" and a plaque listing the names of those from the village who died in the military service of the country.

As promised in the original village proclamation accepting the gift of the Memorial Building from the people of Hinsdale, the building offers a permanent home, free from rent, to the American Legion and HCS Family Services, known in 1927 as the Hinsdale Nursing and Relief Association. While the proclamation makes the same promise to the American Legion Auxiliary and the Girl and Boy Scouts, those organizations no longer occupy space in the Memorial Building, said Bethany Salmon, village planner and Hinsdale Historic Preservation Commission liaison.

Like Hinsdale itself, the building has grown over the years. Since its completion in 1928, the Memorial Building has undergone several additions and renovations. According to the village website, the east wing was constructed in 1969, and the west wing in 1974. The northwest addition, housing the library, was built in 1989.

Molly Castor, former marketing and outreach manager at the library, said the library had several homes throughout the village before moving to the Memorial Building in 1929, where it has remained for 94 years. The library now occupies 30,000 square feet of space on the building's west side.

"We love being the building on top of the hill," Castor said.

The building's east side serves as the hub for the workings of the village. It is home to village administrators along with the parks and recreation, finance, community development, engineering and information technology departments. Meetings of the village board, plan commission and other governmental bodies are held in Memorial Hall on the building's first floor.

Salmon has worked in the building for more than two years. She said the Memorial Building is a busy place, and despite the option to pay bills by mail or online, Salmon said many residents choose to visit the village offices to settle their water bill, obtain a building permit or buy a vehicle sticker.

"There's still significant pride in this building," Salmon said.

The building's walkability to downtown and proximity to the library encourages visitors and allow employees like herself to easily enjoy a visit to the weekly farmer's market or Burlington Park.

Salmon said that through its many changes and additions, great care has been taken to retain architect Edwin H. Clarke's original vision for the building, which was declared a local historic landmark in 2001 by the Hinsdale Historic Preservation Committee.

While most Hinsdaleans have likely entered the Memorial Building at one time or another, Salmon said there are details within its walls that are not often seen.

The upstairs area known as the "Scout room" is now used by HCS Family Services, but its walls still boast murals that beckon back to the room's original purpose, Salmon said.

Another little-known detail can be found on the bell inside the building's bell tower. It is inscribed with a dedication to the village's war heroes, dated July 4, 1929. Salmon said getting those bells ringing again is on the wish list of more than a few Hinsdale residents.

Just as the citizens of Hinsdale came together to build the original building, village leaders of today have announced Hinsdale's 150 Memorial Building Historic Plaza and Roof Railing Campaign. This fundraising effort will result in restoration of the building's original roof railing and a renewed patio area to the south of the building, commonly seen as the front of the building. The patio area will continue to welcome library patrons in search of a relaxing spot to enjoy a book, and it will serve as a spot for planned events and community gatherings.

Andrianna Peterson, assistant village manager, said five donation levels are available to residents and friends of Hinsdale who would like to be part of the campaign. More information can be found at

"To commemorate Hinsdale's 150th anniversary and in honor of our service members, we are asking the community to come together to help renew the Memorial Building Plaza, which has served as Hinsdale's natural front yard for nearly 100 years," Village President Tom Cauley said in a prepared statement. "This endeavor will further the legacy of the Memorial Building, which was originally funded by Hinsdaleans seeking to honor those who made the greatest sacrifice for our nation."

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean