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Memorial Room dedicated to memory of veterans

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Tucked inside the Willmar City Auditorium is the Memorial Room, a space dedicated to the memory of veterans of all wars. The room is located left of the lobby and is entered through ornate wooden doors with inset panels and carved decorative designs.

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The 29-foot by 24-foot room is lined with Minnesota granite to a height of 5 feet, which contains an inset stone from each state. These include a variety of stones such as marble, sandstone and field stone, and the name of the state of origin is identified.

Located above the stone wainscot, a mural painting encircles the room. The mural was executed by Richard Haines during construction of the auditorium in the 1930s.

A panel on the north wall suggests the defense of the country, home and family and the desolation and misery of war.

A second panel shows the sacrifice by women and the three generations affected by the loss of one man.

The mural on the west wall represents three major wars: the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War I.

The east wall depicts the ideals for which these men gave their lives: freedom of speech, freedom of religion and education, the abolition of slavery, the right to work and the guarantee of personal liberty and security.

The south wall depicts the early settlers as well as the U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862.

The Willmar Auditorium is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The auditorium was built between 1935 and 1938 under initial sponsorship of the State Emergency Relief Association. Construction was completed by the Works Progress Administration.

The mural in the Willmar City Auditorium is one of many Haines murals. Haines last visited Willmar in 1977 and has since passed away. Haines toured the Midwest to check on many of the WPA arts projects of which he was associated. During an interview, Haines indicated that each visit found fewer of the facilities still existing.

Besides the Haines mural, the auditorium features three bas-relief panels above the entrance, each 9 feet high and 8 feet wide and cast of white sand and cement.

The central panel depicts war service and contains a figure representing liberty guarded by a soldier on one side and a sailor on the other. The north panel represents agriculture while the south panel represents industry.

Numerous carvings representing various activities and products are placed throughout the three panels. The official seals of the United States, the state of Minnesota and Kandiyohi County are placed at the top of each panel.

To counteract years of deterioration caused by aging and varying weather conditions, the city along with the Upper Midwest Conservation Association and the Building Restoration Corporation, undertook a project in early 1996 to restore the interior mural and exterior sculptures. All artwork had been deemed salvageable.

A grant from the Minnesota Historical Society and donations from the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bremer Bank and numerous individuals paid for the $22,000 project.

The Willmar City Auditorium is located at 311Sixth St. S.W. near downtown Willmar.

A Veterans Day exhibit at the auditorium will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday.

-- From Tribune archive and city of Willmar records

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