History of the War Memorial
Right: Royal Oak unveiled the War Memorial on June 17, 1946 in former City Hall Park at the northeast corner of Third and Williams. The memorial was erected as a result of the efforts of a War Council organization, appointed by the City Commission in the late fall of 1943. The unveiling followed a parade and Gov. Harry F. Kelly was on hand to give the dedicatory remarks.
Below: Twin pillars were added to the memorial to properly commemorate those from this city who lost their lives in the Korean and Vietnam wars. A dedication, with remarks by Mayor L Curtis Potter was held on Veterans Day in 1969.
Royal Oak unveiled the War Memorial on June 17, 1946, in an area known as City Hall Park at the northeast corner of Third and Williams. On the memorial were the names of 102 men who died in World War II.
The city's former City Hall building, at 211 S Williams, was completed in 1953 on the park site. In 1969, separate twin granite pillars to honor Royal Oak residents who were killed in the Korean and Vietnam wars were added to the southwest corner of the lawn near City Hall.
In 1972, a third memorial -- a two-ton stone memorial, honoring those killed in World War I -- was added in the same general location. The heavy boulder rested for 40 years on the lawn of the northeast corner of City Hall, separated 165 feet from the markers grouped at Third and Williams.
In 1985, the Royal Oak Downtown Development Authority (DDA) renovated the parking lot in front of the old city hall. The renovations included the vacation of Williams Street, which had run from Third Street all the way to 11 Mile Road, passing in front of City Hall and the west side of the library. The city also vacated the easternmost portion of Second Street, which ran from the alley just east of Main Street to Williams Street. A wide pedestrian island was constructed within the now-closed portion of Second Street running east and west from the alley behind Main Street east to the parking lot drive in front of the old City hall. The wide island included trees, benches, and parking meters. As a part of this project, the DDA relocated the three veterans’ memorial monuments to the western edge of the pedestrian island. The three were consolidated into one connected Veterans Memorial complete with a new marble base and two flag poles.
In 1997, the City Commission by resolution named the area between the former City Hall, the Royal Oak Public Library, Troy Street, and the Veterans War Memorial as the Barbara A. Hallman Memorial Plaza.
In 2004, downtown was experiencing a resurgence of business activity including restaurants and bars. Mr. B’s, located on Main Street between Second and Third Streets, was extremely busy. Veterans' organizations raised concerns about the possibility that the Veterans Memorial would get damaged from delivery trucks or cars entering or exiting the parking lot. The location was also inappropriate for large ceremonies on Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day since there was no place for chairs, and the setting along the alley was not as respectful as the community desired.
Downtown Development Authority: 2005-2006 Veterans Memorial Project Timeline
- January 19, 2005: Memorial Society (private club, not a city-sponsored committee or 501(c)(3), composed of veterans and their supporters) came to the DDA meeting and requested assistance in moving the Veterans Memorial (monuments, base, and flagpoles) to a different location within the city center area. The society estimated that the cost would be approximately $28,000 and they committed to raising funds for the move.
- June 15, 2005: The Memorial Society returned to the DDA and reported that they had raised $20,865 in donations and pledges, with another $2500 from a company that would donate the cost of the concrete base.
- July 20, 2005: The Memorial Society reported that they had raised a total of $25,000 in donations and pledges. DDA voted to hire a design firm to find a location to move the Memorial and to do a preliminary design at an estimated cost of $7,500-$10,000.
- August 15, 2005: The DDA selected Michael J. Dul and Associates to design the new Memorial, including an electrical plan for lighting, at a cost not to exceed $20,000. The design includes a larger raised marble platform, steps, and a ramp on the west side for handicapped access.
- April 19, 2006: The DDA approved the construction of the new memorial at a cost not to exceed $108,000.
- June 20, 2007: The DDA authorized payment for additional landscaping around the memorial (est. $2,000).
- July 9, 2007: The City Commission voted to place the dedication of the area around the memorial on the ballot for the November, 2007 election. City Attorney Dave Gillham described the to-be-dedicated area which covers about 1/5 of an acre*
- September 17, 2007: The City Commission formally renamed the area as the Veteran’s Memorial Plaza.
- November 6, 2007: Voters approved the dedication of the plaza area. (Royal Oak City Code Chapter 156. Veterans War Memorial (Adopted at the general election on Nov. 6, 2007)
- October 15, 2008: The DDA paid for new sprinklers around the memorial (est. $2500)
The DDA also paid for repairs to cracks in one of the monuments.
2018 Downtown Park Community Engagement Project
The city chose Nowak & Fraus to undertake a community engagement project to determine what elements the community would like to see in the new downtown park. Nowak & Fraus presented its 308-page “Look and Feel Community Engagement Report" on June 28, 2018.
Nowak & Fraus gathered approximately 1,500 individual comments about the park design through a series of events and platforms. They conducted stakeholder meetings (41 participants) including the Interclub Council, the DDA, homeowner associations, and city employees, among others; attended community outreach gatherings such as I Dig Royal Oak, Arts Beats & Eats, a Food Truck Rally, a Saturday at the Farmers’ Market, and the R.O. Library. Nowak & Fraus also held public meetings on two Saturday mornings at Royal Oak Middle School attended by approximately 300 residents, and conducted an online opinion survey in which 882 residents participated.
The “Look and Feel” report listed about 30 generalized statements about the look and feel of the park which seemed to be consistent among a majority of the public comments. These statements covered such items as the amount of greenery, hardscape treatments, possible water features, seating, possible children’s play areas, access points, connectivity to other neighboring facilities such as the Farmer’s Market and the library, lighting, locations for small concerts or other performances, the location of the Veterans’ Memorial, and restrooms.
One of the 30 statements in the report summarized the response of a majority of the responders when asked about the possibility of moving the Veteran’s Memorial. The statement says “The Veteran’s Memorial is a sacred and artistic commemoration and we must continue to pay the utmost respect to our fallen heroes. It makes sense to move the Memorial but only if there is a better place, orientation or position to enhance the overall design of both the park and the Memorial.”
Downtown Park Taskforce Timeline
- March 26, 2018: First meeting of the Downtown Park Task Force. Discussed scope of public engagement project with Nowak & Fraus.
- June 28, 2018: Nowak & Fraus presented its community engagement plan.
- December 12, 2018: Nowak & Fraus presented the results of its community engagement process with the “Look and Feel” report.
- March 18, 2019: Taskforce selected criteria to be included in an RFP for design firms.
- April 15, 2019: Four design firms presented their concepts for the park and credentials.
- April 30, 2019: The task force chose MKSK as the design firm.
- September 30, 2019: MKSK presented three different design concepts based upon the community engagement report.
- December 18, 2019: MKSK publicly presented the design work at a 30% complete level. MKSK was asked to develop two more detailed design plans for a small area, one based upon the Veterans’ Memorial remaining where it is and another with the memorial moving as proposed in the design plan presented.
- January 15, 2020: The task force reviewed the two design options for the Veterans’ Memorial. One proposed moving the monument approximately 40 feet to the east; surrounding it with appropriate landscaping, and making it accessible by placing all the elements at grade with a firm, navigable surface in front of it. Three members of the public spoke in favor of the memorial staying where it is. The Taskforce voted unanimously to proceed with the design option that moves the Veteran’s Memorial “and going forward the design team will work with the Memorial Society to create a respectful space for reflection” around the memorial. The DDA had also that day approved the design as presented.
- August 27, 2020: MKSK publicly presented its completed design for the park to the Taskforce. The Taskforce approved the completed design as presented.
2021 Memorial is Moved to New Location
The memorial was moved to its current location in 2021. Centennial Commons, which includes the Veterans War Memorial and the Barbara A. Hallman Memorial Plaza was dedicated on Dec. 4, 2021.