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

2016 GAR Restoration Update

The City of Aurora has received two grants to support the current phase of the GAR restoration. The City received a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for $200,000 to go toward the design and fabrication of display cases. The City also received a grant from the Kane County Riverboat Fund for $46,000 to fund a portion of the display cases.

WHAT IS THE GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC HALL?

Aurora’s Grand Army of the Republic Hall was opened on July 4, 1878, as a meeting space for and a tribute to Union soldiers following the Civil War. The Hall was funded by donations from Aurora's residents and the land was donated by Joseph Stolp, and it housed the only public library in the city until 1903. The octagonal limestone building sits at 23 E. Downer Place.

The GAR Hall was later turned into a museum of Aurora's involvement in the Civil War, but was closed in the 1990s after the building's foundation was deemed structurally unsafe.

DIDN'T THE CITY ALREADY RESTORE THE GAR?

Following the closure of the GAR Hall, when the building's foundation was deemed unstable, work began to rehabilitate the physical structure of the building. The $2.7 million project shored up the foundation for the long term and also included work to preserve the limestone exterior of the building.

SO WHAT WILL THIS RESTORATION INCLUDE?

This phase will result in the near completion of the Angel Room and the creation of several exhibits. Work includes trim work, flooring, painting, electrical work, lighting and other small details. The facility will include an operational elevator and a restroom on two levels. One of the GAR Hall’s original book cases will be restored and installed to display museum artifacts.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

The project consists of two main scopes of work. The exhibit design, fabrication and signage portion will cost approximately $300,000. The majority of that, $246,000, will be funded by two grants. The interior restoration will cost approximately $140,000 and will be funded by the city.

WHEN WILL CONSTRUCTION START?

The project consists of two major scopes of work. The City of Aurora contracted Bluestone Design Build for the design and building of display cases in June 2015. This work began in July 2015 and is expected to be complete in mid-2016. The interior restoration began in March and will be complete in mid-2016.

WHAT WILL BE ON DISPLAY WHEN IT OPENS?

Civil War medals, weapons, photographs, flags and letters sent from the front lines home to Aurora will all be on display at the GAR Museum in interactive exhibits that focus on the men and women from our area who fought to preserve the Union. The museum has about 1,200 artefacts in its collection, with most, but not all, from the Civil War. The museum could also host re-enactments of Civil War-era dances music and cultural activities as well.

WHY IS SAVING THE GAR HALL SO IMPORTANT?

The Grand Army of the Republic Hall in downtown Aurora is one of just a handful of Grand Army of the Republic buildings left standing in the United States, and over the past 130-plus years residents of Aurora have worked to build it, to save it from threats of being torn down, to save its foundation from crumbling, and to preserve its historical integrity. As one of the few existing examples of a GAR Hall in the nation, the fully restored museum will attract Civil War and local history enthusiasts. Plus, the GAR Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and contributes to the Stolp Island Historic District. The restored GAR Museum will not simply tell the story of the Civil War, it will tell the history of the people of Aurora who have worked so long for its preservation.

Restoration History

How You Can Help

You can donate to APAC’s GAR restoration effort by:

  • Going online to the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley’s website at www.communityfoundationfrv.org/fund_profiles-aurora_art.asp
  • Sending a check or money order to the Aurora Public Art Commission Fund, Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley, 111 W. Downer Place, Aurora, IL 60506; or
  • By calling Aurora’s Customer Service Center at 630-256-INFO or the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley at 630-896-7800.