The beautiful old Xenia City Hall with the opera house was condemned in 1938. The Xenia City Council voted to have the old building razed and a new building constructed on the same site.
Plans were quickly drawn for a new, modern facility described as “modernistic architecture with classic detail.” A federal grant paid for for a portion of the $150,000 construction and an inheritance tax windfall provided the remainder of the necessary funds, so there was no additional cost to the taxpayers.
A cornerstone laying ceremony was scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 2, 1939. The temperature must have somewhat moderate, since the men wore top coats and felt hats, but there was no snow on the ground. The uniformed band from Xenia Central High School, under the direction of Zaner Zerkel provided music. A large crowd was on hand to watch as the workmen lowered the 500 pound foundation stone. This was such a formal event even the workmen were wearing suits and ties.
The Xenia Masonic Lodge was in charge of the ceremony, assisted by several officers from the State of Ohio Masonic Lodge. They marched from Robert’s Villa, led by the Central band, to the site about three blocks away.
A copper box had been prepared to hold items which would be of interest to future generations. The cornerstone was placed on the southwest corner of the building with the box, filled with the mementoes which had been carefully placed inside. There were a total of 38 items placed inside the box.
Included were: a Holy Bible, a Book of Common Prayer from the Protestant Episcopal Church, a Hebrew Bible, Prayer Book and calendar along with membership rosters for the Rotary, Ministerial Association, Kiwanis and Masons of Xenia. Newspapers included the Xenia Herald dated Dec. 29, 1938, the Xenia Daily Gazette of Sept. 19, 1938 (which included the history of a tailor shop which had occupied the site 100 years ago) and a page from the Gazette dated Dec. 23, 1938.
The original and then-current charters of the city were preserved, along with rosters of the city officials and employees as of January 1, 1939. The police department provided a roster and brief history of the department, there was a pressure chart and history of the water department and the financial statement of the City of Xenia, 1937.
Also enclosed was a map of the city, one of Greene County and a Xenia City Director for 1937. City Manager M. C. Smith prepared a brief history of the city since its inception in 1803, then included Ordinances of the City codified to 1937.
Personal items included a letter to the future from Mayor and Mrs. F. M. Chambless and a letter to the great-grandchildren of City Auditor and Mrs. Arthur V. Perrill. Postmaster H. A. Higgins also included a letter for the future. Twenty-five Armistice Day memorial medals from the Foody American Legion Post were included.
Mementoes from the architects, Harsh and Davies of Columbus, and the general contractors, McCurran Brothers were included. Additionally, the McCurran Brothers provided as $5 note on the Bank of Washtenaw, Ann Arbor, Mich. dated May 1, 1854.
The United Brethren Church, the Xenia Ministerial Association, the Xenia Community Chest and First Methodist Episcopal Church provided envelopes. A brief history of Christ Episcopal Church with a list of officers for 1938 and a program for National Prayer Week, Jan. 1-8, 1939 was included.
There were two photographs of the old city building and photos of the foundation of the new building dated Nov. 20, 1938. Photos were included of public officials, Frank L. Johnson, Judge of the Xenia Municipal Court and Ellsworth Weaklin and others. For some reason, also enclosed was one blank page, perhaps to be used when the box is opened or perhaps to represent those who did not add to the collection.
A cornerstone certificate from the Grand Masonic Lodge of Ohio was included stating that the cornerstone had been laid with appropriate ceremony. City officials were M. C. Smith, Manager, A. V. Perrill, Auditor, W. A. Miller, Solicitor, W. B. Fraver, Treasurer, A. D. DeHaven, M.D., Health Commissioner. City Commissioners were Charles A. Bone, President Elwood S. Smith, Vice-President, F. M. Chambliss, Mayor, F. Leon Spahr and Cloisy Anderson.
The public was invited back to tour the completed building on Oct. 6 and 7, 1939.
The ceremony was closed with the following statement by the Junior Grand Warden of Masons in Ohio regarding the cornerstone box. “May the Great Architect of the universe grant that ages and ages pass away ere it again be seen by human eyes.”
Over the years, additions and other changes have been made to the building and soon more changes will take place on the structure, but since 1939, it has been serving the citizens of Xenia.