Wednesday, May 2, 2018


This column first appeared in the May 2018 issue of GreeneSPEAK!

The Wiley Armory today

How well I remember Waynesburg’s Memorial Day Parades of the 1950s, full of marching troops, bands and floats. My grandmother, Mrs. Asa G. Wiley, was one of the Gold Star mothers who wore a corsage and rode in a convertible. People cried when they passed by. Too young to understand, I later realized that they were honoring her loss of a son in World War II, my uncle, Capt. Robert C. Wiley, for whom the Armory is named.

 His widow, Rona (Tuttle) Wiley, was the borough tax collector at that time. My family and I watched the parade from her second floor office windows near the police station.  

American Legion James Farrell Post No. 330 Drum and Bugle Corps ca. 1928. Photo courtesy of Waynesburg Borough.

Uncle Bob had first enlisted in Waynesburg’s storied Company K of the Pennsylvania National Guard while attending Waynesburg College in the 1920s. The Armory on North Washington Street was their training site.
Captain Robert C. Wiley.  Photo courtesy of his sister, Margaret Wiley Morgan.

When Company K mobilized in February 1941, Uncle Bob was 34 years old, married and the father of a son, considerably older than the other volunteers whom he supervised. But, he was unwilling to abandon “his boys,” many of whom he had taught and coached at local high schools. He left Waynesburg as the First Sergeant of Company K, and within two years was company commander. Company K was part of the Pennsylvania 28th Division. After extensive training stateside, they deployed to Europe in September 1943 and joined the Normandy invasion in July 1944. 

On August 9, 1944, in a fierce battle with the Germans near St. Lo, most of his officers were killed or wounded. Despite being severely wounded, he continued to lead until he was killed by a sniper four days later. Posthumously, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor.

Early postcard view.

When constructed in 1914, the Waynesburg Armory was the finest public structure in Greene County, one of 20 built across the state. The legislature had appropriated $30,000 for its construction by W. L. Blair & Sons of Waynesburg. Earlier, Company K had been headquartered on the third floor of the Ross Building on South Morris Street, today Hot Rod’s restaurant.

1950's view, courtesy of Waynesburg Borough.

The all-brick armory had a two-story administrative wing in front and large drill hall in the rear.  The  low-pitched, steel truss roof had wide overhanging eaves, typical of the Prairie style of architecture developed in the Mid-West at that time by architects Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Plaque above entrance door.

Commissioned officer rooms, lockers and dressing facilities were on the main floor with a community lending library and amusement room above, and in the basement, kitchen, showers and steam heating plant. The large drill hall was 60 x 75 feet with an 18-foot arched ceiling and wood floor. It was used for many community events including early Waynesburg College basketball games. It was named the Robert C. Wiley Armory in 1999. 

For almost a century, Wiley Armory housed an Army or National Guard unit until the last occupant, Company B of the 110th Infantry, moved to a new “Readiness Center” in Evergreene Technology Park outside of town in 2010. Waynesburg University purchased the old armory and renovated it, retaining the Wiley name. It is now used for administrative offices and university athletics.
Wiley Armory is now owned by Waynesburg University.