The Wakefield Memorial Building Foundation


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To honor the youth who were summoned to World War I in early 1917, the City of Wakefield, Michigan unanimously decided to do something after the war that “would keep fresh in the minds of the younger generations and others to follow the deeds of valor on the battlefields of France.”  It was agreed that some kind of lasting memorial should be established to honor those sacrifices that were made in order for democracy and free government to survive on this earth.  The people of Wakefield considered that the beautiful tribute to those who served during the Great War was typical of the spirit of patriotism and progress that the town possessed in abundance at that time.

It was decided that a memorial building was the best tribute, but not just any building voiced the community - it was to be “the best that could be built.” 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1924, the 52,000 sq. ft. Wakefield Memorial Building was completed in a town with a population was 4,152.  With a price tag of $400,000.00, construction of the building entailed an enormous amount of effort and sacrifice by the citizens of Wakefield.  What Wakefield lacked in size it more than compensated for in determination and ambition.  Like other towns at that time, Wakefield gave until it hurt during the war and now that it was over, they continued to do so.  It was a common saying in Wakefield at that time that perhaps it was “the smallest city in the United States with the largest memorial building.”

 

 

 

In the 1950’s after the iron mines closed in Gogebic County, the major tax base was lost and the city no longer had adequate funds to operate the Memorial Building.  During the ensuing decades, other entities owned the building but little was done to sustain it.  Today the building is structurally unsound and in a dilapidated state.  In July of 2004, Marvin Suomi, a 1965 graduate of Wakefield High School purchased the Wakefield Memorial Building.  Headed by Mr. Suomi, the Wakefield Memorial Building Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) organization to demolish the current building and construct a new, smaller, energy efficient/sustainable building that will once again be a functional community center which will house city offices, the city library, a theater, and a swimming pool.  The building may also house critical incubator space for new industry – jobs so critical to the western portion of the Upper Peninsula.  When the project is complete, the building will be operated by the City and utilized by the entire community, which is comprised of 66 percent low and moderate income persons.         


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Last updated: 11/19/10.
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