Since 1837, when 118 brave men adopted the motto “Semper Paratus,” (Always Prepared) and were chartered as an independent militia the Cleveland Grays and their friends have made history. From 1792 to 1903 state and federal law authorized the independent militias: private volunteer groups that supplemented the official state militia and served the community in all the ways that the National Guard does today. The Richardsonian Romanesque Revival-style Armory was built in 1893. Within its imposing walls the Armory has also made history by hosting Cleveland’s finest events and its people, including the first concert season of the Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland’s first Auto Show.
The Cleveland Grays were organized in 1837 as an independent volunteer militia company, a precursor to the National Guard. The Grays were first called into duty in1855 by the county Sheriff to guard the courthouse and jail prior to and during an execution. The Grays saw service in the Civil War, Spanish American War, Mexican Border Campaign and World War l. World War l marked the last time the Grays saw active duty due to the end of independent militias. Ceremonial duties have included Presidential inaugurations and funerals. Currently, the Grays provide a formal Color Guard for community functions such as parades. The Grays have involved themselves in community activities since 1893 when the current Armory was built. At that time, the Armory housed one of the largest auditoriums in Cleveland. The Cleveland Orchestra played their very first concert series in the Armory in 1918. The Armory hosted other famous artists such as John Phillip Sousa, the Metropolitan Opera and Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1903, the Armory housed the first auto show in Cleveland. The Cleveland Grays Armory was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. It is also heralded as a Cleveland Landmark. We are proud to note that the Cleveland Grays Armory Museum is the oldest privately owned Armory in the United States. It remains one of the few examples of armory architecture of the 19th century in the United States. Today, the Cleveland Grays is a historical society with the mission of preserving the Armory in its magnificent Victorian splendor, growing its museum and continuing to provide programs and tours for the public. Tours focus on the military history of the Grays. Frequent programs range from the historical to current day with a wide variety of speakers to advance its military and Cleveland’s rich history.