History of the McBarnes Memorial Building, McLean County, Il
From: History of McLean County Illinois
By: Jacob L. Hasbrouck
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianoplis 1924

McBarnes Memorial Building. - One of the outgrows of the world war as it affected McLean county was to bring to the surface the munificent generosity of one of the county's well known wedded couples, Mr. and Mrs. John McBarnes of near Holder, who were the instruments by which the soldiers and sailors of all the wars are to perpetually enjoy a great building erected for their especial benefit. It stands at the southeast corner of Grove and East street, the same corner on which stood for many years the home of Dr. Stipp and earlier of James Allin, the building first used as a court house or county building. The Stipp house had been torn down several years before the world war, and the lot was vacant when the proposition of erecting there a memorial building was first broached.

Housed within the friendly walls of this handsome McBarnes Memorial edifice are the patriotic organizations of the city and county, who for years to come will enjoy the privileges that have been made possible by the donor of the building and the taxpayers of the county, who, through the efforts of the Board of Supervisors, provided the splendid site upon which the stately structure now stands.

In the fail of 1920 the people of McLean county voted to erect a suitable building as a memorial to those of her sons who had made the great sacrifice. However, it was found that no provision was made for further taxing powers to provide funds sufficient to warrant such an undertaking and this necessitated the abandonment of the plan. Again in June, 1921, the proposition of a bond issue and additional taxing power was submitted to a vote of the people, and upon this occasion the issue was defeated by a decisive vote.

During the time that intervened between the elections, the Board of Supervisor had contracted for a location for the building, and even though the bond issue was defeated, they were under contract for the purchase of the Stipp lot, bounded by Grove, Albert, Olive and East streets.

The site being only six blocks from the public square was considered ideal for such a building, not only because of its location but by reason of the historical lore which this spot holds. It was upon this site that once stood the McLean county court house where the immortal Abraham Lincoln practised law and made many of the great addresses which have come down through the years as an inspiration to succeeding generations.

It was just at a time that the soldiers of the county and the public spirited citizens who had favored the erection of a building, were about to give up in despair, that John McBarnes appeared before the Board of Supervisors and made a proposition to donate dollar for dollar to a fund for the erection of a Memorial building. The board found that they were without funds and could not accept the offer of Mr. McBarnes. Mr. McBarnes then presented another proposition in which he agreed to pay the sum of $125,000 for the erection of the building, providing the supervisors would provide a suitable site. The county board provided the Stipp lot and the contract for the erection of the building was signed on Sept. 24, 1921.

On Oct. 26, 1921, Mr. McBarnes passed to his reward, without living to see the ground broken for this building which was commenced April 1, 1922. On May 27, 1922 the corner stone was laid and the structure was dedicated on April 30, 1923.

The building is three stories in height, one hundred feet wide and eighty feet deep. This leaves on the rear of the lot, 141 feet upon which is to be erected a Memorial auditorium, and for which funds are to be raised by the local organization within a period of five years. The structure is of the monumental type, of grey pressed brick, trimmed with Bedford stone.

The building is managed and controlled by a board of management composed of one member of each organization for each one hundred of its membership, one member from the board of supervisors and one member of the McLean County Historical society.

The building committee spent $132,000 for the actual construction of the building. The furnishings as furnished by the county, cost $17,000. Upon entering the first floor of the building, one first comes into the spacious lobby, which is furnished with a library table, two formal high back chairs, and on the west wall of the lobby are large pictures of Mr. and Mrs. John McBarnes. On the east wall is the huge bronze tablet containing the names of all of the MacLean county soldiers, sailors and marines who lost their lives in the World war.

Immediately to the left of the lobby is the room occupied by the Grand Army of the Republic. This contains a large rug, leather furniture, card tables, chairs, and other equipment necessary for the comfort of the veterans.

On the right of the lobby are a suite of rooms occupied by the state department of the American Legion, consisting of private offices for the commander and adjutant and for finance department and a spacious work room for the clerical force. There is a large vault for the records and a stock room for supplies.

At the end of the lobby will be found the McLean County Historical society, which has one of the largest and finest collections of relics, curios, and historical data of varied character of any organization in Illinois with the exception of the State Historical society.

In quarters in the southeast corner of the building are located the colored soldiers, whose quarters are furnished in keeping with the other appointments of the building.

Across the front of the second floor is a room 22 by 50 feet in dimensions which is used as a lounge room. At the east end of this room is a brick fire place which adds to the homelike atmosphere of the place. A handsome rug 18 by 46 covers the floor; there is a library table in the center; there are nine pieces of overstuffed velour furniture, eight chairs upholstered in tapestry and two mahogany writing desks with chairs to match. The three large windows in the front are hung with cretonne drapes.

To the east of the lounging room is the board of manager's office, coat rooms and toilet. To the west of the lounging room are the office rooms occupied by the local post of soldiers organizations.

In the center of the second floor is the music room. There are six French plate glass doors leading from this to adjoining rooms. A rug 18 by 32 feet covers the floor. The furnishings consist of two leather davenports, library table and twelve fumed oak chairs. This is also used as a reading room.

At the rear of the building on the second floor, will be found the billiard and recreation room. This is equipped with two billiard and four pool tables and card tables.

To the east of the recreation room is the canteen which is equipped with an eight foot soda fountain, small steam table from which sandwiches and coffee are served. There is also a cigar and candy stand,

Extending from front to rear in the center of the third floor, is the assembly room which is 51 by 78 feet in dimensions. There are three large windows across the front and false or mirrowed windows in the rear. There are three sets of French doors on either side. The walls are tinted grey, trimmed with mahogany. The furniture consists of one hundred mahogany chairs and mahogany pedestals.

On the northwest corner of the third floor will be found the ladies' parlor. It is covered with a large taupe rug and his thirty two pieces of frosted wicker furniture. Immediately south of this room is the ladies' retiring room.

In the southwest corner is located the store room, where four hundred feet of collapsible banquet table and three hundred folding chairs are housed when not in use.

In the northeast corner is the men's smoking room which has two 9 by 12 rugs and twelve pieces of wicker furniture.

In the southeast corner is the kitchen. This is thoroughly equipped to banquet four hundred people. There is a large supply of dishes, silverware, etc., a large double gas range, battery of coffee urns, work tables and other necessary equipment.

The structure, both inside and out, is of ornate design, is complete in all its appointments and is withal, a building of which the soldiers and citizens of the city and county must have just cause to be proud.

Willis S. Harwood of Bloomington was the chairman of the building committee during the erection of the McBarnes building. Ben S. Rhodes was vice chairman; Harris K. Hoblit, treasurer; Oscar loose, secretary; John Bozarth, Charles P. Kane, Walter Arbogast and T. F. Harwood were the other members of the committee. Mr. McBarnes chose some of the members of the committee and the American Legion selected the others. The ones chosen by Mr. McBarnes were W. S. Harwood, Messrs. Hoblit, Bozarth and Arbogast. The ones selected by the Legion were Secretary Rhodes, Oscar Roose, Charles P. Kane and T. F. Harwood.

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