his Second Inaugural Addresses, Lincoln spoke of the necessity
of caring for veterans of the Civil War, and for their widows
and orphans. Iowans anticipated this need in 1864 by providing
a private soldiers' orphans home in Van Buren County. This
home proved inadequate, however, and a commission was called
at Marshalltown in 1865 to remedy the problem.
delegate to the commission was Peter Melendy, a prominent
local businessman. Melendy was an eloquent and forceful
spokesmen for the advantages of his town. Largely through
his efforts, Cedar Falls was chosen as the site for a new
Orphans Home was temporarily located in a three-story former
hotel at Fifth and Main. The building was refurbished through
local donations and made ready in October 1865. Arthur Morrison
was the first superintendent, and by the end of 1865, there
were 96 children living at the Home.
grew rapidly during the following year, and the need for
a larger building became apparent. This was accomplished
through both private and state funding. Local citizens provided
a 40-acre tract of land southwest of town, while the state
appropriated $25,000 for a building, staff and support.
The Iowa Soldiers'
Orphans Home building was completed and occupied in 1869.
It served its original purpose until 1875, by which time
most of the orphans had grown to maturity or could be cared
for in other homes across the state. In the following year
it became the first classroom, administration and residence
building of the new Iowa State Normal School, and came to
be known as "Central Hall." It was located southwest
of the Auditorium Building
was used as a classroom and office building until 1965,
when it was destroyed by fire. Today, nothing remains of
the Iowa Soldier's Orphans Home building, but its legacy
is the University of Northern Iowa.