Free historic tours at Memorial Hall
By Kathryn Elliott - ReminderNews
Windsor Locks - posted Thu., Mar. 3, 2011
Taking a trip through Civil War history is as simple as a short drive to downtown Windsor Locks. Memorial Hall, located at the corner of Elm and Main, is one of the town’s oldest buildings, and a rich historic treasure. Dedicated in 1890, the structure was constructed to honor veterans serving in the Civil War, and has since grown to encompass all wartime history – specifically focusing on the service of Windsor Locks residents.
Charles Chaffee, a textile manufacturer with no known ties to the Civil war, generously donated $15,000 to a group of veterans struggling to secure a location in which soldiers returning from duty and their families could gather. Noted on the impressive exterior façade, the building is named for Joseph Converse, a Windsor Locks resident killed in battle during 1864 in Cold Harbor Virginia.
Memorial Hall visitors can view hundreds of pieces of memorabilia and artwork. Included in the exhibits are a detailed correspondence from Abraham Lincoln, period weaponry, antiques and several medals donated from families choosing to share their loved ones’ military accomplishments.
Free guided tours are available the first Sunday of each month. The approximately one-hour visit touches on the lives of soldiers from Windsor Locks and their service over the course of six wars; Civil, Spanish-American, WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Included are detailed lists of names, rank and battles served, in which families or simple curiosity seekers can research individual soldiers.
Each room has a theme. From library to ballroom, every wall contains rarely available portraits and historic documentation. In 1974, a faulty radiator on the main floor sparked a fire that crept through all three floors. “We were very lucky,” board member Edward Sabotka said. “There was a great deal of priceless portraits stored up in the attic. Luckily, a canal worker saw the flames and alerted the fire department. We would have lost a great deal that night if he were not there.”
Sabotka encourages schools to contact Memorial Hall to schedule guided tours, on request, as part of their planned curriculums.