In the heart of Cedar Rapids sits the Veterans Memorial Building. An iconic symbol for the city, the building is home to the Veterans Memorial Commission and several other veterans groups. But it’s not all business at the Veterans Memorial Building. Free and open to the public, visitors can stop in to learn about the role our veterans have played in shaping our community. It’s also a gathering space for celebrating a family milestone, raising awareness for a cause, or to simply listen to some tunes! Stop in and explore all the Veterans Memorial Building has to offer.
Opened in 1927, the Veterans Memorial Building serves as a true memorial to our veterans. On the National Register of Historic Places, Veterans Memorial Building hosts several monuments including the Eternal Flame which was placed atop the building in 2000. Under the flame is a Cenotaph designed to evoke the patriotic spirit of the Unknown Solider. And the coliseum — where famed performers like Johnny Cash, LeAnn Rimes, Amy Grant, Metallica, and Fats Domino once rocked the stage — itself is a memorial. There are three museum displays to tour, each containing a variety of artifacts and memorabilia donated to the Veterans Memorial Commission. Throughout 2020, visitors can tour The Korean War: Divided. An Eastern Iowa Perspective to learn more about this sometimes forgotten conflict.
It’s no surprise local famed artist Grant Wood left his mark on the Veterans Memorial Building. In fact, the stained glass window that graces the main lobby is Grant Wood’s largest work of art. A World War I veteran himself, Wood designed the window before the creation of American Gothic which catapulted him to national fame. Standing at 24 feet tall and 20 feet wide, “Memorial Window” portrays a central female figure woman representing the Republic — symbolically holding a palm branch of peace and a laurel wreath of victory — along with six stoic soldiers at the base representing the Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, The Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and the First World War. The window was drawn up (in full-scale sketches) by Wood — who eventually traveled to Munich, Germany where he got hands-on experience painting the stained glass. It holds much symbolism and detail and must simply be viewed in person to be truly appreciated.
During many evenings and weekends, Veterans Memorial Building comes alive as a popular rental venue. There are several spaces — from an intimate ballroom overlooking the river, to the industrial-feel armory in the basement, the glamorous coliseum — available for hosting community and private events throughout the year. The Hy-Vee River Grill is also available to rent for private gatherings. With a unique view of the Cedar River, the space is ideal for a special occasion or business meeting, with full customized catering options. Beyond renting the building, there are plenty of reasons to stop in for a visit. Take a twilight yoga class. Cheer on the Cedar Rapids Rollergirls as they bout around the coliseum. Meet a political candidate or two passing through town on the campaign trail. Dance the night away at a wedding or local fundraiser. For nine decades, Veterans Memorial Building has been and continues to be a place for making memories.
(Photo above is republished with permission. Copyright 2019 THE GAZETTE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
Veterans Memorial Building
50 2nd Ave Bridge, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401