LIMA — Since January 1875 when L. Melancthon Miley organized the Melancthon Light Guards, the citizen soldiers of Allen County had mustered, drilled and stowed their gear in a series of make-do armories all over downtown Lima.
The Light Guards became the Lima City Guards which became Company C of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which marched off to the Spanish-American War in the spring of 1898 from an armory in Turner Hall on South Main Street. In 1917, as Company C mobilized for duty in World War I, they gathered in an armory on East Spring Street and drilled where they could.
“The mobilization took place yesterday morning,” the Lima Daily News wrote on July 16, 1917. “By 11:45 o’clock all had reported and the order to fall in line for the first drill was sounded. Captain Clark Creps is in command. Lieutenant Frank Hume has charge of drilling the rookies, the march maneuvers being rehearsed on the street this morning.”
In the years after the Great War, Lima was home to Guard infantry and cavalry units. The units maintained separate armories. This created a unique call to arms, as was the case in March 1921 when the Lima Guard units were ordered to be prepared for possible duty in Springfield, which had been rocked by racial unrest.
“Captain Oscar A. Dupes of Company C, Third Ohio Infantry, and Lieutenant Kerr, commanding officer of Lima cavalry, are awaiting possible orders to mobilize their forces for duty in the race war at Springfield,” the News reported on March 12, 1921. “In event the infantry is ordered to mobilize, the fire bells in all of the five stations will ring for 10 minutes. On this signal, the men are ordered to report immediately at the armory in Hawisher Hall … . Should orders be received directing the cavalry to move to Springfield, the fire siren in the tower of the central fire headquarters will blow for 10 minutes in four directions. Members of the cavalry hearing this signal will report to the armory above the Maus Piano store, North Main Street.”
Clearly, as all concerned often noted, a new armory was needed. Fortunately, as the 1920s dawned, it looked as if Lima would soon have one.
“Plans for a large armory for the Ohio National Guard Unit of this city are now being perfected by a committee of guardsmen, according to announcement Wednesday afternoon. Details of the plan have not been made known but it is believed that the armory will be one of the largest of any had by a city the size of Lima in the state,” the News reported Jan. 8, 1920.
“That a large armory has been needed by the local unit for some time is the opinion of members of the two troops,” the story continued. “One hundred and forty men are enrolled in the cavalry troop and infantry company, according to a report from officers of the Guard. Drills of the troops have been held at Hawisher Hall, East Spring Street since organization of the local guardsmen. Acquisition of a new armory, which is (a) certainty according to officers of the Guard, will probably mean an increase in membership and advancement of all lines of drill work.”
A week later, the News wrote that local Guard officers “have been assured … that Lima will be the first city on the list for an armory in 1921,” adding that “there are no quarters in Lima which are large enough to accommodate storage rooms, riding grounds and stables, all in the same building, this being indispensable to the proper training quarters.”
Proper training quarters also would likely be more secure. On June 6, 1921, the News reported that “enough army equipment was stolen from the armory of troop E, 1st Ohio Cavalry, located on the third floor of the Maus Piano Building, last night to start a revolution in Mexico.” Gone were 45 automatics, three rifles, “a large number of cotton and wool breeches,” 20 pairs of shoes, three saddles, three bridles, 20 pistol holders, six whistles and “a large quantity of ammunition.”
Despite all the assurances, Lima did not get a new armory in 1921 — or 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925 or 1926. The News, in an editorial on April 6, 1921, bemoaned the lack of state funds for armories. “The allowance made for the year for state armories is but $318,350, as against $476,712 appropriated annually for the past 10 years. The total for this year should be $575,000,” the newspaper asserted.
Meanwhile, the Guard continued to add units and troops in Lima. “That construction of a state armory in Lima will be necessitated soon became evident Saturday when Major Frank H. Hume, Second Battalion, 148th Infantry, announced that a headquarters company will be recruited here,” the News reported on Feb. 11, 1923. “Establishment of the new National Guard organization in Lima will raise the number of soldiers in the city to approximately 300 when all three outfits are recruited up to peace footing. Construction of an armory large enough to house three units will be forced upon the state within the next year, Guard officers believe. A building adequate for the purpose will cost not less than $250,000.”
In the waning days of 1923, the News reported the state would not consider Lima for an armory until a suitable site had been found. On Feb. 8, 1924, the News noted that state officials had ruled out Lima for a new armory in 1924 but added confidently that “this city will get one of six contemplated for 1925.”
It didn’t. “There has apparently been nothing accomplished up to this time on the solicitation of funds for an armory site. It is freely stated by individual members of the committee in charge that sufficient money cannot be secured for a central location,” the News wrote Dec. 13, 1925.” “If the armory is to be built next year, the commission has practically decided on an outlying location. In this they are actuated solely in the belief that a campaign for $40,000 would be a failure.”
In 1926, the city offered up a site on South Collett Street near the Ottawa River for an armory, only to have it rejected by the state. “Word was received by Lt. Col. Frank Hume that the contemplated Collett Street site for Lima’s proposed $100,000 armory had been found unsatisfactory by the state architect and engineer,” the News reported on Nov. 24, 1926. The ground, state officials said, was too close to the river, too low and too likely to flood.
After a half a dozen years of effort, the armory became a reality in 1927. After “several months’ negotiations on the part of city officials and interested citizens” about 65 acres of Hover Park property had been purchased, the News wrote on Feb. 27, 1927. Under the deal, the Hover heirs deeded four acres to the state for an armory. Construction began that summer.
A year later, on June 27, 1928, the News announced that “the next regular practice drill of Company G, 148th infantry, Ohio National Guard, scheduled for the night of July 2, will be held in the new armory, according to an announcement by Capt. William V. Daley, company commander.”
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.