Memorial Park in Clarke County, Illinois

Memorial Park honors the men and women who have preserved, protected and served America’s armed forces throughout its history. In 1917, the United States entered World War I, a brutal conflict that ultimately shifted the war’s momentum in the Allies’ favor.

The Park’s experience begins in a lower level curatorial space, showcasing the local war history and paying tribute to the soldiers. Visitors then emerge into the serene memorial space.

The Park’s History

In its early days, the park’s main attraction was a large flagpole that displayed an American flag. The flag was erected to commemorate the men of Clarke County who lost their lives in World War I. This was the result of a drive started by local citizens to identify and memorialize those who served.

By the time the war ended, the cemetery had grown to a substantial size and was renamed Memorial Park Cemetery. Today, the cemetery is surrounded by miles of bike and walking trails, picnic areas, sports fields and an equestrian center.

The park was originally created as a place of solemn repose for veterans and their families, and it still serves this purpose to this day. Thousands of people visit the cemetery every year to attend formal ceremonies held on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, as well as to pay their respects throughout the rest of the year.

Many of the original burials from the original Memorial Park are buried in a special section of the cemetery. The section is called the Old Section, and it includes graves of those who died in World Wars I and II. This section is the oldest part of the Memorial Park and contains over 17,000 interments.

In addition to the Old Section, Memorial Park also includes an equestrian center and a native animal zoo. The zoo was a popular attraction in its day, and the animals’ cages were designed to blend with the surrounding landscape. The zoo was closed in the 1980s, but it was later rebuilt and became a regional destination for those looking for nature and recreation.

The Park also hosts a number of popular events, including concerts. In 2011, 311 played in the Park and drew over 40,000 fans. The Park is also home to a free summer concert series sponsored by Bank of the West. The concerts are held on the last Friday of June and attract a number of music lovers.

World War I

Designed to bring together community, education, health and fitness, recreation, sports and leisure activities, and natural beauty Memorial Park offers a uniquely refreshing experience to its visitors. The Park is home to a 1,500-acre urban wilderness that replenishes the body, mind and spirit. It’s also home to a nationally recognized jogging trail, Seymour Lieberman Trail, and hosts popular concerts and events.

Memorial Park has a unique history that began as World War I training camp Camp Logan, where 70,000 soldiers trained before the United States entered the war in 1917. During the conflict, which has been described as “the war to end all wars,” nine million military and seven million civilian deaths were directly related to the war itself, and another 50 to 100 million were killed worldwide through resulting genocides, poverty and influenza outbreaks.

To honor the legacy of those who served in the Great War, Memorial Park Conservancy launched an interactive audio exhibition Aug. 23 – the 106th anniversary of the Houston Mutiny and Riots – in partnership with Buffalo Soldiers National Museum. The exhibit, free to the public, features six onsite audio experiences located throughout the 100-acre Clay Family Eastern Glades at 552 E. Memorial Loop Drive.

At the heart of the experience is the Belvedere, a viewing platform with an iconic representation of the American Expeditionary Forces medal centered on the Memorial floor. To the viewer’s left, a statue of General John J. Pershing is situated, and to the right of the medal display is Sabin Howard’s A Soldier’s Journey sculpture. The entire exhibit is augmented by informational panels along the Belvedere walls and a listing of names of those who served from the greater Houston area on all fronts of the conflict, including those killed in action. Listening to the voices of decedents and community members whose reflections humanize this tragedy, exhibit attendees can consider what it means to serve one’s country.

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