Xenia’s Armory is nearly 90


Joan Baxter - Contributing columnist



The brick structure known as The Armory is located very near Shawnee Park in Xenia. No doubt you have driven past many times, but perhaps have never been in or don’t know exactly how it came to be.

The National Guard was formed after World War I consisting largely of former Army personnel. A place where they could meet and continue their training was necessary and so the Armory was built nearly 90 years ago.

Bids for the building were solicited in February of 1930. A Louisville, Kentucky firm was chosen to do the construction on the structure with the promise that the building would be completed in only eight months.

Plans for construction were drawn to specification and included a meeting room which could be used by patriotic organizations for meetings.

The date of the dedication was selected with care. Armistice Day (now known as Veterans Day) was the date selected. Not too many years had passed since World War I had ended with the signing of the treaties on November 11, 1918. This was remembered as the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. At that time, folks were living who well remembered and fought during that conflict with the hope that never again would the United States be involved in such an action.

State and local officials were invited to participate on the special activities which had been planned. This date was appropriate since it had become a National day dedicated for peace.

The scheduled events began at 10:30 in the morning. WWI veterans gathered at the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home for the annual memorial services, this year in charge of the Foody Post, American Legion. (Later it became Foody-Cornwall). This was the only morning event scheduled for that day. At 11 a.m. the canon was fired to signal silence. This continues to be tradition to have a moment of silence at that eleven o’clock hour to remember those who fought for the peace which country was enjoying at that time.

Banks and public offices remained closed the entire day while local merchants and businesses closed at noon.

A highlight of the day was the parade. Dr. Benjamin McClelland was the Grand Marshal with Sheriff Ohmer Tate and Lester Barns appointed aides to the Grand Marshal. Their responsibilities included lining up the participants in the proper order. Motorcycle policeman Peter Shagin and county patrolman L. A. Davis along with Miss Dorothy Andrews served as aides.

The highlight of the day was the parade which began at 2:30 p.m. The OSSO Home Band led the parade closely followed by the OSSO Cadet battalion. Spanish-American War veterans were followed by members of the Foody American Legion Post and Auxiliary. Next in line were the Girl Scouts, members of the D. A. R. (Daughters of the American Revolution), Xenia city and parochial students. Civic, patriotic and fraternal organizations also marched. Every section of the county was well represented. Boy Scouts were assisting the police department with traffic.

The marchers proceeded through the central business district past the reviewing stand on the west side of the Court House and on to the Armory where the parade ended. Among the marchers was the thirty-piece Xenia Central High School band along with a delegation from Fairfield and Osborn with the Bath Township Consolidated School band.

When the parade ended, the marchers were joined by members of the public who wished to attend.

The $50,000 Armory was constructed by the State of Ohio on land which had been deeded by the City of Xenia to the State for the purpose. The completed building was presented to the community and Company I, 147th Infantry, Ohio National Guard on behalf of the state by Adj. Ken Arthur Reynolds.

The keynote address was given by Dr. W. R. McChesney, President of Cedarville College. His remarks were followed by musical presentations by several bands. At 5 p.m. a full military retreat with Company L in charge was performed. The flag was lowered while the Star Spangled Banner was played.

No doubt some of the audience went home after the flag was retired, but some continued the day’s festivities by attending a banquet which was served at the Masonic Temple. Several short addresses were made at the banquet and a concert was presented by the OSSO Home Band. Toastmaster for the evening was Xenia newspaper publisher Harry E. Rice.

One might have thought this would be the end of the celebration, but there was more. Following the banquet a military ball was held at the Armory. The ball began at 8 o’clock and lasted well past midnight. A well-known band of the era, Michael Hauer’s eleven piece band provided music for dancing and listening all evening.

The Captain of Company I. 147th Infantry was Ozni H. Cornwell of Xenia. The Commander had been a member of the National Guard for 21 years at that time, having also served during World War I. Other officers included First Lt. Jesse D. Burgart of Goes, Second Lt. Perry D. Swindler who had previously served four years in the regular army and had been in the National Guard for three years.

Hundreds of people from the State and all parts of Greene County came to celebrate the building dedication and to remember Armistice Day in 1930.

The Armory is a very attractive building and after nearly ninety years is still in active use, often you will see cars parked in the parking area near the building as the current National Guard Units meet.

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Joan Baxter

Contributing columnist

Joan Baxter is a Greene County resident and historian.

Joan Baxter is a Greene County resident and historian.