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Lehr Memorial was named for the university's first president, Henry Solomon Lehr. Initially, there was some question about the building's location. In 1911 Ohio Northern had established a College of Agriculture and had acquired 50 acres west of the existing campus for a farm. One party argued that the new structure should be built on the new campus. The traditionalists felt that it should be constructed on the original campus along South Main Street. The latter site, however, would require that the Normal School be demolished. In May 1913, President Smith announced in chapel that the new building would be constructed on South Main Street.
The contract was let in October 1913, and despite the Administration Building fire the following month, work had progressed sufficiently to allow the structure's cornerstone to be laid in May 1914. The stone itself was carved from the stairs of old Normal School Building. As a former Northern student and later faculty member, the principle speaker, Governor Frank Willis, grasped the stone's symbolism when he noted, "The stepping stone of the old has become the cornerstone of the new." Lehr Memorial was dedicated in May of the following year.
Originally, the university administrative offices occupied the first floor rooms flanking the front entrance. The front section of the second floor contained the library, while the law library was on the south side of the second floor. The third floor housed five large classrooms and two private offices for the Commercial College. To the rear of the building a 1600 seat auditorium provided improved facilities for chapel services, theatrical and musical performances, and lectures. The pipe organ in Brown Hall was relocated to the auditorium in 1915.
As funds became available, a total of ten memorial windows were added to the auditorium. In the mid-1980s eight were transferred to the practice room in the rear of Presser Hall. Two, a window for President Lehr and one for President Smith were not used.
In 1930 the library was moved to Brown Hall and the space vacated in Lehr was converted into a facility known as the Alumnae Hall. The hall opened at commencement in 1930 and was in use until spring 1965. By that time improved meeting spaces were available in the new McIntosh Center student union. The old hall was converted into offices for the president and other university administrators.
The last performance in Lehr auditorium was In the Matter of Robert Oppenheimer, directed by Prof. Betty Roberts, on Feb. 9, 1991. It brought to an end 76 years of entertainment. Currently the auditorium is used for storage. The north balcony is converted to offices for VP of Financial Affairs, while the south balcony is occupied by the Alumni Office.
Belch, Eugene. "Tempered by Crises." 1971. Online (2006). Ohio Northern University, Ada, OH. http://www.onu.edu/library/onuhistory/ohistory.htm
Kennedy, Sara Lehr. H. S. Lehr and His School. Ada, OH: Ohio Northern University Press, 1983. Online (2006) http://www.onu.edu/library/onuhistory/ohistory.htm
Lehr, Henry Solomon. History of the ONU. Ada, OH: Ohio Northern University Press, 1994.
Logsdon, Paul. An ONU Photo Album, 1997. Online (2006). Ohio Northern University, Ada, OH. http://www.onu.edu/library/onuhistory/ohistory.htm