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Akron Armory

The Akron Armory, built at 161 S. High St, held its opening celebration marked by an automobile car show held December 3-8, 1917. Less than a year later, it was used as an emergency ward for the Spanish influenza. The Armory’s original purpose was to train military personnel and be a venue for city events. The city of Akron’s expectations for the Armory may have been surpassed, given the number of individuals impacted by the venue, the diversity of the Armory goers, and the variety of events that were hosted there.

The building itself was the largest venue in Akron and had 2,000 seats with extra standing room available. It was constructed for $187,000 and housed the military equipment for the National Guard. Later, it became a place for school dances, circuses, gun shows, and more.

The Armory was available for both Black and White citizens of Akron; it is unknown from the available research if the larger events were segregated. As an example, in the “All-Star Revue,” where there were White and Black artists performing, there was no discussion of segregated seating for those attending. The lack of information regarding racial discrepancies is where more clarity is needed.

The Akron Armory was home to large and small political rallies and calls to action. John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman stopped at the Armory on their way to the presidency. The same year Truman came through town, Billy Graham spoke at the Armory. In contrast, Black Akronites such as Dr. Reverend Adam Clayton Powell fought for the protection of their way of life from the Klu Klux Klan at the Akron Armory’s stage.

The Armory was also home to musical events. It was a go-to for out-of-town large orchestra bands and solo jazz artists, including but not limited to Earl Hines, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, and his Orchestra, and the “Sophisticated Lady of Song”  Marva Louis. In 1960, civil rights activist and singer Marian Anderson performed for the people of Akron. Both Black and White artists played at the Armory at large combined revues and smaller presentations from specific music genres.

The African American community hosted NAACP meetings at the Armory as well as the votes for the “Little Harlem” or Howard Street Mayor poll boxes. The Howard Street area was known as “Little Harlem” because of its famous jazz connections to celebrity artists as well as its own home for an enriching creative community. There were a few years when this “Little Harlem” hosted a mayor for this smaller community of Akron. From the wide range of political, spiritual, and entertaining events, the Armory was a venue used richly by the Black community of Akron. 

Wrestling and boxing were also a critical part of the Armory’s history, as many of these events were hosted throughout the years. For some Akronite, these matches made the Armory a fond memory and a cause for anger when the City of Akron demolished the Akron Armory in 1983, making way for Senator Oliver R. Ocasek’s government office building dedicated November 16th, 1984. “After only 64-years as an Akron icon, the Armory was demolished to make room for the new Ocasek Office Building. An event that goes down in history as another of Akron’s big mistakes and blunders.”(Mr. Ed). 


  • “Akron City Life.” Cleveland Call and Post. December 7, 1939.
  • “Akron NAACP Urges Citizens To Take Interest In Returning GIs.” Cleveland Call and Post. September 29, 1945.
  • “All-Star Revue At Akron Armory.” Cleveland Call and Post. February 5, 1944.
  • “Andy Kirk to Play Akron, Ohio.” Cleveland Call and Post. May 8, 1943.
  • “Auto show marked debut of armory.” Akron Beacon Journal. December 3, 2000.
  • “’Biggest Show’ Plays Akron Armory Tuesday.” Cleveland Call and Post. October 11, 1958.
  • “Crowd pleasers: Akron venues.” Akron Beacon Journal. September 10, 2000.
  • “Duke Ellington Plays Akron, Wed., Nov. 15.” Cleveland Call and Post. November 11, 1944.
  • “Duke Jenkins, Other Ohioans To Receive Awards At Akron Dance.” Cleveland Call and Post. June 25, 1955.
  • “Earl Hines to Play Akron Armory, Monday, Feb. 14.” Cleveland Call and Post. February 12, 1944.
  • “Guarding JFK.” Akron Beacon Journal. October 1, 2000.
  • “Joy Boy Presents Fletcher Henderson And His Orchestra.” Cleveland Call and Post. February 20, 1943.
  • “Nat Towles at Akron Armory Christmas Eve.” Cleveland Call and Post. November 27, 1943.
  • “Presenting Three Mayor of Harlem Candidates.” Cleveland Call and Post. April 22, 1937.
  • “Police Hold Four Dance Bootleggers.” Cleveland Call and Post. February 2, 1946.
  • “Popularity Poll Stars In Akron’s ‘Big’ Show.” Cleveland Call and Post. August 31, 1957.
  • “Rock.” The Akron Beacon Journal. May 29, 2006.
  • “Sophisticated Lady of Song.” Cleveland Call and Post.  March 18, 1944.
  • “State Committees Slashing Budgets.” Akron Beacon Journal. June 5, 1931
  • “”The Klan Still Rides…” Says Powell; Urges Akron Audience To Support FEPC.” Cleveland Call and Post. April 28, 1945.
  • The Old Akron Armory.A Blog by Mr. Ed. January 21, 2021.
  • “Truman Address at Armory Reverses Campaign.” Akron Beacon Journal. October 6, 2008.
  • “What a quarantine could look like.” Akron Beacon Journal. February 29, 2020.
  • “1982.” Akron Beacon Journal. December 17, 1989.
161 S High St, Akron, OH

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