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GRAYS ARMORY

GRAYS ARMORY, built by Cleveland's long-standing private military company, the CLEVELAND GRAYS, has served not only as a meeting lodge and assembly hall for that group but also as a stage for a wide variety of events. Designed by Cleveland architect Fenimore C. Bate, the armory was built on Bolivar St. at Prospect Ave. The cornerstone was laid on Decoration Day, 1893. The structure is appropriate for the Grays, who provided trained men for military service and served as honor guards at local, state, and national functions. A military fortress is suggested by a 5-story tower with rows of progressively smaller windows and a turreted cap, and the stone foundation at the street level surmounted by massive brick walls. The interior contains offices and meeting rooms at the front and a large drill hall at the rear. The armory's drill hall not only was used for training and assemblies of the Grays but was and still is rented out for various social and cultural affairs. Programs for the 1896 Cleveland Centennial were held there, and performers such as opera star Emma Calve appeared, along with popular revues and touring companies. In 1918 it hosted the first concert of the newly formed CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA. As more elaborate theaters and halls were opened, fewer performances were held at the armory. However, in the 1970s the Western Reserve Theater Organ Society installed and refurbished a large Wurlitzer theater pipe organ in the drill hall and concerts were given regularly. Funds were made available in 1988-89 to establish a library of American military history there. A director of activities continues to promote use of the armory facilities by outside groups. Recent events include rare book sales, political rallies, and rock concerts. The Cleveland Grays continued to operate from the armory on Bolivar Rd. into the 1990s.