Official website for the City of Aurora, Illinois. Mayor Robert J. O'Connor

History of the Grand Army of the Republic

Grand Army of the Republic

Civil War BadgeThe Grand Army of the Republic was founded in Springfield in 1866 and was one of America’s first veteran’s organizations. Union veterans of the Civil War established “Posts” in many states. At one time the GAR had a membership of 400,000 men nationwide and was a potent political force.

Over the course of 60 years Aurora Post 20 boasted a membership of more than 700 Civil War veterans, representing 70 Illinois regiments. By 1939, however, membership was dwindling, and Daniel Wedge, a past commander of Post 20 organized the GAR Memorial Association. Wedge passed away in 1947 on his 106th birthday, the last surviving member of Post 20. The GAR Memorial Association, which consists of descendants of Post 20, still exists to this day.

GAR Memorial Hall

The GAR Memorial Hall, Aurora Post 20 was constructed in 1878, with funds raised by citizens of Aurora. It was built as a monument to Aurora’s Civil War veterans and as a shrine to their fallen comrades. It also served as a veteran’s meeting hall and as Aurora ’s first free public library.

GAR Memorial Hall, c. 1877

The Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall was designed in the Gothic Revival style by Aurora architect Joseph P. Mulvey. It was constructed of rock-faced, ashlar laid limestone, which was quarried in Aurora. The original GAR building consisted of the octagonal structure only. In 1885 a two-story addition, also designed by Mulvey, was added at the southwest corner of the building. This served as additional library and meeting space. The stair tower was added in 1904-1906. In 1963 the 1885 addition was demolished. The remaining octagonal building and stair tower were preserved and today the GAR Memorial Hall, purchased by the City of Aurora in 1964 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.