The Original Building
The original structure was built in 1925 a total cost of $400,000. It was built on the site of the present-day Memorial Building, dedicated on September 18, 1925 to all World War 1 veterans. The dedication ceremony attracted 5,000 people and included a parade. The building itself included an auditorium, skating rink, 8 curling rinks and bowling alleys, and served two-fold as a recreation building and war memorial. It was the first Memorial Building of its kind in the state, and an inscription on the font façade read, "Let us keep alive the spirit of America as exemplified in the lives of those whose service we honor."
At 1:15am Thursday, December 28, 1933, the Hibbing Memorial Building was reported on fire. Firefighters from Hibbing were joined by the Keewatin Fire Department and hundreds of volunteers. They battled the flames for over 12 hours. Temperatures at the time read 33 degrees below zero, and several people were taken to the hospital with frostbite. Sadly the building, which was less than a decade old, was almost completely destroyed.
In January of 1934, the insurance appraisal was completed, and the city received $312,995 in the settlement. Additionally, the city was able to salvage $100,000 worth of steel scrap from the building ruins.
During the next several months, the city mailed out questionnaires to citizens asking for input on desired facilities for the new building. There were also meetings between the architect and civic groups to deternmne the needs of the community and what accommodations would best suit them.
All of this information was carefully considered by Architect E.R. Erickson and Village Engineer Clark Henry. The first draft of building plans was released to the public on March 9. One specific contention of these plans indicated that the new building would be built "fire-proof." These original plans also debuted the iconic dome shape of the building's roof.
On June 15, I934, a $123,400 grant was received from the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (a part of Roosevelt's New Deal), completing the city's funding needs.
On December 28, 1934, the village observed the first anniversary of the original building fire. The next day, the Masons joined several veterans groups for the laying of the cornerstone of their new memorial building.
John Knutsen, Public Works Administration engineer and inspector on the Hibbing Memorial Building, ensured that the project employed local contractors (such as Ryder Furniture and Remington Yards), and that the men worked as many hours as the PWA permitted. The project moved along straight through the winter, with the roofs steel trusses being installed with temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees below zero. Other materials included a I 6,000-pound cooling tank, 10 miles of piping, and 20,000 square feet of steel reinforced concrete and terrazzo flooring.
The Second Building
The dedication ceremony took place on November 20, 1935 at 2:30 pm. The public was invited to tour and inspect the building, and the Hibbing City band played for a large dance held in the arena that evening. Though the equipment did not arrive in time for the dedication ceremony, the Memorial Building would become the first Iron Range arena to use refrigeration to produce artificial ice. The Hibbing Daily Tribune heralded it as "the last word in modern architecture and construction."
Over the years, the building has truly become a center point of the community, hosting MHSL sporting events including basketball and hockey, political rallies, the Last Chance Bonspiel, USFSA sanctioned figure skating competitions, concerts and music festivals, conventions and banquets, trade fairs, car shows, and much more.
"The Hibbing Memorial Building is one of the finest of its kind ever seen, and as an engineer [I have] seen many. Yes sir, the people of Hibbing are getting a real building, dollar for dollar." - John Knutsen
During World War II, the Memorial Building was converted into barracks, a mess hall, officer's quarters, and a canteen for U.S. Army Air Corp trainees. The trainees received ground school instruction at the Hibbing Junior College (then located at the Hibbing High School) and flight training at the Hibbing School/Chisholm airport.
The rink - centrally located within the city of Hibbing - was used by the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks for their training camps on six occasions in the late 1930's and 1940's. The arena permanently seats 3,460. Additional floor seating for 1,000 plus standing room for 1,000 more brings the total arena occupancy to 5,460. The building currently houses the Hibbing Curling Club, Hibbing Historical Society, and City of Hibbing Parks and Recreation offices, as well as veteran and community meeting rooms.