Governor Jack Markell signed a bill transferring ownership of the Milford Armory to the City of Milford on Tuesday, September 23. The building was home to members of the Delaware National Guard for 75 years.
“We are fortunate in Delaware to have men and women of the National Guard available for service,” Governor Markell said, standing in front of the building. “From time to time, however, they must reorganize and regroup. They now have a new headquarters and this building, which has served them for 75 years will now belong to the city.” Governor Markell said that the fact that the National Guard and state legislature could come together to help the city.
General Frank Vavala of the Delaware National Guard said that the organization had a long and proud history in the town of the Milford. “This is a bittersweet moment,” General Vavala said. “Armory buildings became centers of the communities and I am sure there were many dances and other events held here over the years. I am sorry that we are moving away from these grand old buildings in small communities, but it is only fitting that the city be given the opportunity to keep this long-standing building available to benefit the citizens of the town.”
The former Armory Hall was located on Southwest Front Street and in the first quarter of the 20th century the building was the site of theatricals, graduation ceremonies, dances and other community events. On November 22, 1937, a local newspaper printed a drawing of what the then new armory would look like, a depiction of what the building standing on North Walnut Street looks like today. The caption under the photo says that the new building was to replace the Old Armory Hall which had been condemned. However, Old Armory Hall was converted into a movie theatre before it was eventually torn down.
During the bill signing, Senator Gary Simpson said that he was excited to see what the city will do with the building, recalling that his brother served at the Milford Armory more than 50 years ago. Representative Harvey Kenton recalled playing basketball when his father used to come to the building. Representatives David Wilson and Bobby Outten were also on hand for the bill signing.
“It was an honor to accept the Milford Armory from the Governor of Delaware on behalf of the City of Milford,” Mayor Shupe said. “As many Milford residents know, the Armory has sat vacant for several years since the Delaware National Guard made the decision to consolidate facilities across the state. The Delaware National Guard was a great partner for over 70 years in our community and they continue to be a good neighbor by supporting the City of Milford.”
Mayor Shupe said that Senator Simpson and Representative Kenton, along with Representative Jack Peterman, who was unable to attend the event, were instrumental in the acquisition as they cosponsored the bill in the Delaware legislature. “Governor Markell and the State of Delaware have been a great partner during this process as they agree that the City of Milford will put the building to great use,” Mayor Shupe said.
Mayor Shupe also said that the city can now begin discussions on the best utilization of the property now that it is officially owned by the city. He said that he wants to hear from the public what ideas they have for the use of the building. “The building can be immediately used by the Public Works and Parks & Recreation Department for equipment storage,” Mayor Shupe said. “I also believe now is an opportunity of the Police Committee and City Council to look at the possibility of rehabilitating the building in a manner that would be conducive to hosting a new police station.” Mayor Shupe said that all ideas are on the table and that he looks forward to hearing from the public the ideas they have for the best use of the building.
Discussions regarding the Milford Armory will begin at the committee level where members of council will be able to bring their ideas to the table. The meetings are all open to the public and posted on the City’s website along with local news organizations. The committees will make recommendations to City Council who will then proceed with any activity needed to pursue those ideas, according to Mayor Shupe.