Memorial Forest Shrine Provides a Peaceful, Woodland Setting for Remembering Ohioans Lost to Battle
The Shrine is open seven days a week from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.
Tucked away in a peaceful corner of Mohican-Memorial State Forest in Ashland County is a little-known place where families, friends and ordinary citizens can pause to reflect on Ohioans killed in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War. The Memorial Forest Shrine is the state's official monument to her nearly 20,000 sons and daughters who died in those conflicts.
Left: The Memorial Forest Shrine, located at Mohican-Memorial State Forest in Ashland County, is dedicated to the memory of 20,000 Ohioans killed in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf War.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) invites all Ohioans to rediscover the Memorial Forest Shrine and remember fellow citizens who sacrificed their lives for the nation's freedom.
A joint initiative of ODNR and the Ohio Federation of Women's Clubs (OFWC), the Memorial Forest Shrine is maintained by the ODNR Division of Forestry, which also oversees the surrounding 270-acre Memorial Park and 4,525-acre state forest. Over the years, state foresters have planted more than 310,000 trees in the area - living memorials to the war dead honored within the shrine.
The Ohio General Assembly authorized construction of the 32-foot by 24-foot sandstone chapel-like structure in 1945 as World War II drew to a close. The shrine's location, just off Route 97 and close to Route 3 (the old "3-C Highway"), was carefully selected for its easy access from all parts of the state and because of its proximity to Mohican State Forest, which was already under ODNR management.
More than 60,000 Women's Club members from all over the state worked two years to raise the construction funds. Legislation required that all materials and companies involved in the construction be native to Ohio. Roof timbers were hewn from state forest trees. The native Ohio sandstone blocks came from a nearby quarry. Roof tiles were manufactured in New Lexington and floor tiles in Zanesville. A Columbus art glass studio created the shrine's six stained-glass windows, which depict peace doves with olive branches, as well as red cardinals (the state bird) and buckeye trees (the state tree). Two massive wood-bound books containing the hand-lettered names of 20,000 Ohio war dead are preserved in a glass case within the shrine's grotto.
The Great Seal of the State of Ohio is an interior focal point of the Memorial Forest Shrine.
The "great books" are the centerpieces of the shrine, drawing an average of 3,000 to 5,000 people to the grounds each year. More people came in the years following World War II, before construction of Interstate 71 and the accelerated pace of modern life took a toll on the number of annual visitors.
A set of eight binders located in the center of the room duplicate the "great book" listings by county and by war for the convenience of visitors seeking particular names.
Two thousand people made their way to southern Ashland County for the shrine's formal dedication on April 27, 1947. Honored guests that day included some of Ohio's most decorated war heroes. As part of the ceremony, Women's Club leaders turned over the keys to ODNR, symbolizing the state's permanent guardianship of the facility.
Women's Clubs help maintain the shrine and keep its roll of honored dead updated.
A NatureWorks grant provided needed repairs and updates in 1997 when the OFWC held a 50th anniversary rededication and ribbon cutting. Wheelchair ramps were added in 1991.
The Memorial Forest Shrine hosts two formal events each year. The Ohio Chapter of American Gold Star Mothers, an organization of women who have lost children in war, holds a pilgrimage to the shrine on the last Sunday of each September. The local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars also conducts an annual Memorial Day service.