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.
Like other stories of Sanger's childhood in her autobiography, this event cannot be substantiated. But based on available records, we suspect the hall involved in this story may be Columbus Hall. It later served St. Mary Mother of Mercy Church as a convent house.
The first photograph shows the building as it appeared circa 2010. It was demolished in 2017. The site was converted into an 85-space parking lot, finished in May 2019, needed after St. Mary's absorbed a neighboring congregation whose church had become structurally unsound.