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As It Was: Ashland, Ore., Armory Builders Kept Entertainment in Mind

The builders of the Ashland, Ore., historic armory between 1912 and 1913 had more in mind than training Oregon National Guardsmen.  They equipped it with a stage that could be rented to provide money for military social gatherings.  More than 100 years later, it remains a popular venue for Ashland entertainment, ranging from rock concerts to Martin Luther King Day celebrations.

On opening night, Jan. 9, 1914, the armory featured a play called “The Private Secretary of W.C. Hawtrey,” a three-act farce presented by 12 Ashland amateur actors under the direction of Lynn Purdin.

Between the first and second acts, The Elk’s Quartet sang four numbers including “I’ll be Waiting When the Sun Goes Down” and “Way Down South.”  Between acts two and three, Mrs. Charles Barnett Wolf sang “Good Bye Sweet Day.”

State, County and City funds covered the $40,000 construction costs.  The armory served First Company, Coast Artillery Corps of the Oregon National Guard, under the command of Capt. George C. Spencer.

The Danford Electrical Shop lit the stage, the store of John C. Patty provided the furnishings, and many Ashland businesses advertised in the armory’s opening gala program.


Source: “Souvenir Program of the Opening of the Ashland Armory”, January 9, 1914, Southern Oregon Historical Society MS 846

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.