The curtain fell on the poignant tableau, the Tivoli meeting adjourned and participants walked to the site of the new auditorium for the laying of the cornerstone. Chattanooga Mayor A.W. Chambliss introduced F.E. Mahoney, permanent chairman of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium. Following a stirring patriotic invocation offered by the Rev. J.W. Bachman and a musical selection by Mrs. John Lamar Meek, the keynote speaker, T.C. Thompson, recounted the purpose of the memorial to be built while honoring the "fallen warriors in the fight against tyranny."
The American Legion, commanded by Alex Guerry, laid the cornerstone. It had been designed to contain a box, 7 inches deep, 18 1/2 inches long and almost 5 inches wide. The Legion Committee had spent months determining appropriate items to include, selecting 29 items to honor those who had died during The Great War and to document the process that had resulted in the construction design and process. Included was a Bible, an envelope containing the memorial list of Hamilton County soldiers who fell in the war along with their decorations and citations and a history of the Memorial Auditorium process written by O.P. Darwin. Miniature U.S. and Tennessee flags joined a small brassard, a memorial armband, worn by the Gold Star Mothers. Copies of the four Chattanooga newspapers published that morning, Nov. 11, 1922, were included along with a small military-issued Testament and copies of the most popular war songs music. A medal awarded to Lt. James Craig Lodor, Company M, 26th Infantry, First Division, was placed in the cornerstone along with the citation describing his leadership as he "gallantly inspired his platoon to three vigorous and successful advances, in the last of which he was killed."
As the cornerstone was laid, Mrs. Morris Temple sang "Nearer, My God, to Thee," followed by an invocation by Rabbi A. Holtzberg and the singing of the doxology by Mrs. Theo King. The Rev. F.T. Sullivan delivered the benediction.
One month later, the Chattanooga Music Club launched a campaign for a "grand organ that would add greatly to the earning capacity of the building through recitals and concerts which could be given, and that it would add even more to the musical culture and entertainment of the community." A committee was appointed and given official authority by the Chattanooga City Commission to consider plans and negotiation for the selection. E.Y. Chapin was selected as chairman and Mrs. D.P. Montague, Mrs. John L. Meek, Mrs. Morris Temple, Z.C. Patten Jr., J.O. Cadek, C.C. Nottingham, F.M. Dearing, J.F. Johnston and Emil Wassman served as well.
After extensive research, the committee recommended, and the city commissioners approved, that a contract be signed with Austin Organ Company for the "construction and installation of an instrument at the price of $45,000," noting that when completed it would "compare favorably in size, range and quality of tone with the better instruments of the world."
Belle Kinney, renowned sculptress originally from Nashville, was chosen to create the reliefs to be used on the front of the auditorium building. Paul Manker, president of the American Business Club, agreed to lead a fundraising campaign to secure the $4,500 which would pay for the reliefs.
On Oct. 23, 1923, the city created a Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium Commission to oversee the management of the facility and plan for a Feb. 22, 1924, dedication to occur on the anniversary of President George Washington's birthday. City Commissioner Emil Wassman was appointed chairman. Alex Guerry, Mrs. C.M. Willingham, F.L. Underwood, Neil J. Crowley, A.J. Law and George H. Patten were designated as associate members. The new commission chose J. R. Curtis as manager for the auditorium.
The commemorative program, distributed on the morning of the dedication, included this statement: "Thus a Memorial Hall of generous proportions, attractive design and admirable arrangement, is dedicated to the memory of our young men who went out to war The best thoughts of our best minds have contributed to what we have erected. It stands today a monument to a proud past and an enduring instrument of service to an inviting future."
Almost one hundred years later, Chattanooga's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium continues to remind the community of the "young men who went out to war."
Linda Moss Mines, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County historian, serves as the secretary of the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council and regent, Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR.