National Memorial Day Museum

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The Civil War, which had torn our nation apart, had come to an end. In Waterloo, NY, as in the rest of the nation, the great sacrifice of our most precious asset, our young men, weighed heavily on the minds of our citizens. During the fall of 1865, Henry C. Wells, a local Druggist, proposed that a commemoration be held to honor their sacrifice. Late in the winter of 1866, he enlisted the aid of General John B. Murray who immediately threw his support behind the proposal and on May 5, 1866 the first Memorial Day was held.

In 2006-2007, the National Memorial Day Museum, just a short walk from the Cayuga/Seneca Canal in Waterloo, NY, underwent a complete make-over of its interpretive exhibits to better tell the story of the history of Memorial Day to a national audience. Visitors are immersed in a story that was born out of the unimaginable death toll of the Civil War and are taken, room by room, panel by panel through the story of the origins of Memorial Day, those responsible for its founding in Waterloo in 1866, and the changing face and meaning of this somber holiday down to the 20th century. Waterloo is the only federally recognized birthplace of Memorial Day and we are proud to interpret this reflective holiday for the many visitors who visit the museum and our beautiful Finger Lakes region.

memorial day museum

Contact Information:

35 East Main St

Waterloo, NY 13165 


Hours of Operation

Open Memorial Day through Labor Day

Thursday – Saturday

Noon – 5pm

Closed for the season October through April

Contact 315-539-0533 for additional hours or to set up a tour.