Hard Stone for Hard History: Black granite picked for Italian Hall memorial monument

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette A rendition of the completed granite monument containing the names of the 73 people who lost their lives in the Italian Hall on Christmas Eve, 1913 (inset). The rendition also shows the intended location for the monument once it is placed in the Italian Hall Memorial Park on Seventh Street in Calumet.

CALUMET — The project of placing a monument at the Italian Hall Memorial Park on Seventh Street is moving forward after Mike Lahti, chairman of the Memorial Park Committee, gave a presentation to the Village Council Tuesday.

The presentation included a representation of the monument, which will be of black granite with white lettering. The monument will contain the names and ages of each of those people who lost their lives in the hall on Christmas Eve of 1913, when an unidentified person yelled “fire” during a Christmas Party hosted by the Women’s Auxiliary of the Western Federation of Miners.

Lahti said that while the Italian Hall Park is a nice site, complete with tables and the building’s arch, it is still missing the names of the victims.

“And that is the focus we kept,” Lahti said of the committee’s work.

Lahti said although other committee members have discussed additional projects that can be done to improve the park, he felt it was important to make sure the names of those killed in the disaster were displayed on the site.

“These are people who suffered there,” Lahti said. “It wasn’t the building that suffered. The building has since been torn down by the village. The arch, since moved and put up there, is a signal, but this is something with the names of those people.”

Joanne Thomas, an Italian Hall Park Committee member, explained to the council the reason for the black stone is due to its density. While other colors for the stone were discussed, Thomas explained that lighter-color granite is softer and more susceptible to chipping during the engraving process.

“As much as another color may be more aesthetically beautiful,” Thomas said, “the fact that we have 73 names and their ages, logistically, we couldn’t allow for another color, because of the quality of the granite carving.”