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Litchfield's Historic G.A.R. Hall

The grand, brick structure that looks across Litchfield’s Central Park is the historic G.A.R. Hall. G.A.R. stands for Grand Army of the Republic, a national organization for Union Civil War Veterans with thousands of posts across the country. The G.A.R. Posts were similar to today’s American Legion or V.F.W. – a place for veterans to gather, swap stories, and help each other.

G.A.R. Members standing outside the G.A.R. Hall in Litchfield, MN in 1866.
G.A.R. Members on May 31, 1866

G.A.R. History

Litchfield had two posts. The first was formed in 1874 by newspaperman Frank Daggett. When Daggett died in 1876, the post essentially died with him. Then in July 1883, another post was formed. Each post was named after a Civil War soldier, and the men chose to honor Daggett with the Frank Daggett Post No. 35.

Many of the post’s first meetings were held in the Meeker County Courthouse. Then in March 1885, the members decided they needed their own building. Construction began in May 1885 and by Memorial Day the cornerstone was laid. The building was made using brick from the local brickyard.  

By the end of October, just six months after construction began, the bulk of the work was complete with only painting and finishing touches left. One of the final things added was the spectacular, 16-globe chandelier that is still in the Hall today.

The first meeting in the Hall was held on November 14, 1885, and a grand opening for the public took place the following week. Besides the regular G.A.R. meetings, the Hall was also used by the community. There were public meetings, dances, ice cream socials, and suppers. Kindergarten classes and church services were also held in the building.

Upon the completion of the building, the members did something that ensured the future of the G.A.R. Hall. Knowing their time on earth was limited, the post deeded the building to the Village of Litchfield – only later would it become the City of Litchfield. The deed stated the village would maintain the property and keep the Hall as a permanent memorial to the Union Soldiers after they were gone.

By the end of 1885, there were over 100 G.A.R. members of Post No. 35, with more than 250 members over the years. The last official meeting of the post was in 1928, with eight members remaining. In 1933, the building was turned over to Litchfield. The last surviving member, Albert DeLong, died in 1936.

In 1934, renovations were done to the Hall as part of the Civil Works Administration. Then in the 1950s, the Meeker County Historical Society and the City of Litchfield agreed that the Society could use Hall and help oversee the building. Needing additional museum space, a two-story addition was added to the rear of the G.A.R. Hall in the early 1960s.

The G.A.R. Hall Today

While there were once over one hundred G.A.R. Posts across Minnesota, only two buildings remain today, making the Litchfield G.A.R. Hall truly unique. The Hall is open for walk-in tours year-round. It is located at 308 N. Marshall Avenue in Litchfield and is open Tuesday-Friday 10-4; Saturday 12-4.

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