Michael Higgins, Margaret Sanger’s nonreligious father, invited agnostic orator Robert G. Ingersoll to speak in Corning, New York. According to Sanger’s autobiography, her father had arranged to rent a hall that was owned by a Catholic priest; when Ingersoll arrived, Higgins found that the hall had been padlocked so that Ingersoll’s speech could not proceed. But Ingersoll and Higgins would not be deterred by this setback. They led an attentive crowd into the woods just outside of town, and Ingersoll delivered his lecture outdoors. Based on available records, we believe the hall involved in this story is most likely Columbus Hall.
The photograph shows the building as it appeared circa 2010. As of autumn 2017, it was undergoing demolition. If you have any other information about this event, please contact us.