The Clark County Historical Society

Photograph of the south entrance to The Heritage Center.

Our Mission

The mission of the Clark County Historical Society is to collect, preserve, and interpret resources which provide understanding and appreciation of Clark County’s heritage, and to relate the community’s past to the present and its future.

- Constitution of The Clark County Historical Society

We collect, preserve, and share Clark County's history through the ages.

Our History

FOUNDATION

The Clark County Historical Society as it stands today is a legacy of local Civil War veterans, who as early as 1895 campaigned for a museum to be built. They envisioned a permanent home for their military memorabilia and a focal point for Springfield’s 1901 centennial. In June 1897, members of the G.A.R. held a joint meeting with the Board of Trade (later to become the Chamber of Commerce) at the Board of Trade Offices in Springfield’s new City Hall on Fountain Square. During the meeting, a committee was appointed to establish

“…a society for the preservation of colonial, pioneer, Indian, war, and other relics as could be collected in Clark County, and curios of any kind that any person might wish to deposit therewith.”

A photo of Clark County Historical Society's artifacts in the Relic Room in 1901, courtesy of our Library & Archives. All rights reserved.

EARLY DAYS

Soon after its formation, the Historical Society began collecting a wide range of historical material like war relics, farm machinery, manuscripts, rare books, and photographs. In November 1897, County Commissioners provided two rooms on the second floor of the County Court House for the growing collection, but a flood of new artifacts during its first few years forced the Historical Society to search for larger headquarters several times. In October 1900, the agency moved to a large room (called the Relic Room) in the Bushnell Building. The Society again outgrew this space in 1903 and County Commissioners gave the Historical Society the East County Building on the southeast corner of Limestone and Columbia Streets to use (where the Juvenile Court Building now stands).

A MUSEUM WITHOUT WALLS

The Society moved to the second floor of Memorial Hall in 1925. This would be the Society’s permanent home until 1985. In 1985, after three failed attempts to pass a levy to renovate Memorial Hall, the museum closed its doors. Eighty-seven years of exhibition came to an abrupt halt and the institution was forced to search for new quarters to house their historic collection and exhibits.

The Society and the historic collection was saved in part by local partnerships. Wittenberg University offered a building to house a research library and offices. The County Commissioners increased the agency’s annual appropriation and permitted the continued storage of the collections in Memorial Hall.

Right: An early photo of Memorial Hall housed in our Library & Archives, possibly 1930s-1940s. The hall was completed in 1916 and demolished in 2010. All rights reserved.

A photo of Memorial Hall.

OUR RETURN TO CITY HALL

When Springfield’s City Hall and Marketplace faced the threat of demolition in 1990, the City and County Commissioners, the Historical Society, and the people of Clark County stepped in to save it. It was the sales tax paid by the residents of the County that made it possible to convert the City Building into a first-class museum and center for the preservation of local history.

In March 2001, the Clark County Historical Society moved into the building of its birth as an organization. We have been here since, fulfilling our mission to collect, preserve, and share the community’s history through research, exhibits, programs, outreach, educational programming, and more!