Centennial of the Armistice: The Commemoration of World War I in the Twin Cities

Tour curated by: Matt Berning (Author and Creator), Dr. Maheen Zaman (Advisor)

World War I was a particularly significant experience for Minnesota. In addition to sending thousands of men overseas, the homefront became a vital center of wartime production. From Fort Snelling serving as one of the two main training camps for American troops in the Upper Midwest to the Iron Range producing the materials which were used to build navy ships in Duluth, all Minnesotans were profoundly impacted by this unprecedented global catastrophe.

However, the homefront also became the opposite of what Woodrow Wilson described as the United States' overarching purpose for entering the war: to make the world safe for democracy. During World War I, a widespread anti-immigrant sentiment pervaded the Minnesota homefront. During the war, Germans and Scandinavians came under heavy scrutiny over their alleged dual-loyalties to the United States and their country of origin. This was born out of the fact that the United States fought against Germany in World War I, while Norway and Sweden remained neutral throughout the war.

Immediately after the war came to an end, strenuous efforts were made locally to erect monuments and memorials to commemorate the veterans who served overseas. These include fourteen public monuments and memorials in eleven different locations throughout the Twin Cities.

Nationally, this was not the case, as World War I is the only twentieth century war in which the United States fought without a national monument or memorial in Washington D.C. Despite the fact that the country sent over 2 million men overseas and almost 117,000 were killed, the war has largely faded from the national consciousness; especially compared to World War II.

With the centennial of the Armistice which ended the war having been reached this November, significant interest in the Great War has been renewed, albeit briefly. As such, this tour seeks to not only resurrect, but preserve the history and memory of the war, the men who served in it, and its monuments and memorials.

Locations for Tour

World War I was a particularly significant experience for Hennepin County residents. Over the course of the United States’ eighteen month military involvement overseas, 568 veterans and nurses were killed in action. Shortly after the November 11…

Domestically and abroad, World War I was an unprecedented and highly profound experience for Minneapolis’ Plymouth Congregational Church and its parishioners. In addition to sending dozens of men overseas to fight in the Great War, the Church…

During World War I, Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis transformed itself from a house of worship to a center of wartime support. While the Church’s male parishioners went overseas for military service, the female parishioners…

One of several Twin Cities Churches to erect a monument to World War I, the Hennepin Ave Methodist Episcopal Church did so on November 6, 1921 through the efforts of its parishioners. Located in the Church foyer, one cannot help but notice this…

Made of St. Cloud granite, located in Minneapolis, and dedicated to Minnesota veterans, the Soldier’s Monument at Lakewood Cemetery was initially designed to serve as a monument to Minnesota’s Union Army veterans of the Civil War. Today, it also…

World War I was a particularly trying time for the city of St. Paul. Because the United States fought against Germany, the city’s large German immigrant population came under heavy persecution due to questions about their loyalty to the country.…

What was once a glorious football stadium for the University of Minnesota and monument to World War I, all that remains of Memorial Stadium is the archway through which one entered with the dedicatory inscription in the McNamara Alumni Center. World…

Along East Calhoun Parkway of Lake Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun), there includes a monument to the U.S.S. Minneapolis, a World War I-era cruiser, and two memorials to Minnesotans who served in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, respectively. All…

Once reflective of the name commonly associated with World War I; “The War to End All Wars,” the Vision of Peace now represents an ideal which is yet to come to fruition. As the name would suggest, this monument does not commemorate war, rather,…

One of St. Paul’s three public monuments and memorials to World War I, the Court of Honor largely centers its attention on World War II, with a small plaque dedicated to World War I veterans of Minnesota. Located on the Mall adjacent to the State…

Unlike most monuments and memorials to World War I in the Twin Cities, Peavey Fountain is not dedicated to Minnesota veterans, rather, to the horses of the 151st Field Artillery Division. The 151st was a Minnesota National Guard unit which became…