This civic hall is a memorial to those who fought in the Second World War (1939 – 1945). The foundation stone was laid on the 14th of September 1958 by the Governor General, Viscount Cobham, and the building opened on 25 April 1960.
Designed from a plan submitted by New Zealand architects G. Greenhough, G. Smith and G. C. Newman, it is now considered to be one of the finest examples of New Zealand modernist architecture. At the time of its construction it was a radical departure from the norm for civic memorial buildings in New Zealand. The War Memorial Hall has always been widely acknowledged by architectural historians as a landmark in New Zealand architecture. In recognition of this achievement, it won the New Zealand Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1961 and the Institute’s 25-Year Award in 1998. It also has a Historic Places Trust Category 1 Listing.
A major contributor to the cost of the building was the Scots Memorial Hall trustees, who donated the 11,250 pounds they had raised for their own hall. The government provided a subsidy of the same amount.
The top story consists of a large hall, the smaller Pioneer Room with kitchen facilities, and the Concert Chamber. In the lobby are the flags of the NZ Ensign and a replica of the Moutoa flag, designed to honour the local Maori and show unity between the two races.
The beautiful stained glass window on the ground floor was commissioned in 2003, as a tribute to the fallen from the Second World War and is based on Lawrence Binyon’s ‘Poem for the Fallen’. Also dedicated to the 373 servicemen and women from Wanganui who died during the Second World War is the Book of Rememberance, which sits on a podium of Swedish granite. Above the book fly the flags of the Army, Navy and Air Force along with New Zealand National Ensign.