C Cleveland

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In the mid-19th century, all major US cities had their own volunteer militias with their own uniforms, flags, weapons, and bands. In Cleveland, this unit was called the "Cleveland Grays", named after their gray uniforms.

The Grays were founded in 1837 and were the first Cleveland group to fight in the Civil War. They rode with General Pershing in the Spanish American War and with the 145th Infantry in 1916 in World War I.

The group built a huge sandstone castle in 1893 as the "Grays" headquarters. This massive five-story fortress was designed in the Richardson Romanesque Revival Style. The main building is four stories high and its most notable feature is the five story tower that sits atop the northeast corner. The tower's 3' x 5' foundation blocks, the main entrance corners, and the front window lintels are all of solid rough-hewn sandstone. The main entry arch rests on polished granite columns that rise from each cornerstone.

Poised above is a black wrought iron drop-gate, a gothic barrier between the front steps and the colossal oak doors. Pointed iron rods bolted to the scarlet brick walls make up window protectors on the first floor. The effect is a splendid mix of color and texture in materials.

While the original intent of the building was to house weapons arsenal and provide a drill hall, over the years it hosted a number of social events vital to the community.

Today, it features a 10,000 square foot ballroom, a basement shooting range, a wood-paneled library, and walls and walls of military memorabilia.

Visitors and staff at the Armory have claimed to hear footsteps when no one was present as well as seeing Civil War era apparitions.

The Grays mission is to preserve the historical Armory Museum, support our Armed Forces and advance the military heritage of Greater Cleveland. Grays Armory is open only for private parties and special events but does provide a number of community education programs.

Text of the Historical marker:

Side A : "Cleveland Grays"

The Cleveland Grays were organized by statute in 1837 as an independent volunteer militia company. The Grays were the first company to leave Cleveland for service during the Civil War.

In April 1861, they were designated Company E, 1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). They saw action at Vienna Station and First Manassas and also served in the 84th OVI and were on duty with the 150th OVI at Fort Stephens when Confederate General Jubal Early attacked Washington in the summer of 1864.

During the Spanish-American War the Grays volunteered for service and were admitted to the National Guard as the 1st Battalion of Engineers, 10th OVI. In 1916, they joined General John J. Pershing's Punitive Expedition against Mexico.

After service on the Mexican border, the Grays became part of the 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment, 37th "Buckeye" Division. (continued on other side)

Side B :(continued from other side)

Assigned to the Western Front, the Grays would see action in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918. World War I was the last active service of the company.

During subsequent conflicts from World War II through the Persian Gulf War, individual members have served in the armed forces.

In 1893, the Grays constructed an armory at 1234 Bolivar Road in Cleveland. The armory became a center not only for the organization's military activities, but also for many of the city's social and cultural activities.

The first concert of the Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland's first automobile show, and performances by the Metropolitan Opera and John Philip Sousa and his band were held at Grays Armory.

Still in existence as an historic and ceremonial organization, the mission of the Grays is to interpret the military heritage of Greater Cleveland and to preserve Grays Armory.

Museum war memorabilia

Cannon on display

Pipe organ


  1. Thanks for another great peek at the Big C!

  2. I don't know what your day job is, but you seem to enjoy and are very proud of your hometown history.
    This comment is been Bernie approved!

  3. You actually make history fun!


  4. @CatLadyLarew,
    You are very welcome!

    @R. Jacob,
    My day job is administrative with a hospital. This is way more fun.

    Thanks! I try. Happy Birthday!

  5. Wow! You really know your Cleveland stuff! I can't say I know that much about my area. I'll have to get on that.


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