MUSEUM BUILDING – The Armory

Armory bldg 1930The National Guard Armory Building, originally built in the Spanish Colonial style, for the 127th Regiment Infantry Company G, was dedicated on December 15, 1921. The Armory was the first built in the state under cooperative financing by federal, state, and local agencies. The five acres which made up the Armory, its drill and athletic fields, were purchased for $2000. Money was raised locally and “at a single meeting of the Men’s Club in Oconomowoc, half paid by the federal and state governments, half by the City of Oconomowoc through a bond issue.”

The Armory served many purposes besides being the home of the National Guard in Oconomowoc. Military balls, weddings, dances, graduations, and other city-wide social events were held there on the 72’ x 90’ drill floor, a part of which is now occupied by the museum’s theater. For many years, the Oconomowoc American Legion Band rehearsed on the drill floor. At one time, the Oconomowoc Recreation Department used the main floor as an archery range. There was a rifle and pistol range in the basement that was used for target practice by local residents as well as for police training. Other activities were held at the site, particularly on Saturday and Sunday during the summer months. The Recreation Department has been responsible for maintaining all of the land known as Roosevelt Field (the original five acres minus the land on which the museum now sits). Over the years the high school has sometimes used this land for football, track, volleyball, and baseball with varsity baseball games still scheduled there as well as periodic gym classes.

From the time of its dedication until 1985 when the new Armory was built on the west side of Oconomowoc off of Hwy 16, the Armory served its purpose of training national guardsmen. On December 6, 1984, the building which had housed the Armory was listed on the National Registry of Historic Buildings. In 1988, the city of Oconomowoc deeded the building to the OAHS&M as a potential site for a community museum on condition that within five years a museum would be in existence. The challenge was met. The Oconomowoc Area Historical Society and Museum officially opened on June 29, 1991.