What Xenia was like in 1939


By Joan Baxter

A neighboring reporter wanted to learn more about Xenia in June of 1939. After his visit, he was so impressed with what he saw, that he wrote a full page article. I am going to share some of the highlights of his story. This was written shortly after the new city hall had been constructed. He references the no longer standing three-story building with its mansard roof. This structure served both as the city hall and the opera house. He tells of the laying of the corrnerstone.

“It was the thrill of a lifetime, when the roaming correspondent stood the other day with head uncovered, as ‘your fag and my flag’ presented by the local American Legion was hoisted above its chaste lines. Something glorious to stand with Midwest city crowd looking up at a flag that is stronger than wars.”

“Yes, the best flag in the grandest country in the world floating above the best little city in America. One whose educational advantages are equal to the best; whose manufactories, business, professional and financial interests are distinguished throughout this land, whose business bocks are imposing and whose residences are noted for comfort, bended with excellent taste.

A city of accredited seminaries and school sufficient for the wants of a progressive people; a city which has libraries, hospitals, public buildings, hotels, theaters, lodges and clubs; a city whose many-sided life has the sustaining power of militant churches, edifices whose towers overtopping the lofty hardwoods, form the most conspicuous of its myriad pleasing features.”

The reporter was obviously very impressed with everything he saw in Xenia.

“A Midwest city, small but rich, whose courthouse has been selected by those in authority, as a model of beauty and substantial design — a city remarkably health as its low death rate discloses; one of the main streets the historic Bullskin Trail; a city in the center of an agriculture unsurpassed in the world; a city with the best and most modern transportation facilities; a city noted for its pure water supply, free from all contamination …”

“And away from generalities, Xenia has outstanding business blocks and buildings. Among them The Steele building, Dodds apartments, post office, fire department and new city hall. The O. S. and S. O. Home on the town’s edge, is a city within itself and an asset to Xenia. The home for the indigent and the county Orphans’ home are almost within the city’s limits. The city’s approximate population is 11,000 and its busy factories turn out rope, twine, cordage and cordage furniture, boots, shoes, brooms, limber, advertising novelties and dairy products.”

His tour of the city included a walk through Woodland Cemetery where the caretaker pointed out several graves of interest along with the four pillars at the entry which had at one time, been a part of the previous court house.

He mentions the history of the Galloway log house, owned by the Greene County Historical Society. At that time the house was located on East Second Street. Today, of course, it is part of a complex on West Church Street. Churches were also mentioned.

“And Xenia being the center of a hog and corn country, not forgetting the farms of wheat and other products, its ills and elevators and the union stockyards are busy every working day in the year…”

The writer concludes his remarks with the following: “Xenia is a friendly town, a farmer’s town, a big Saturday night town. It has in its stores the sort of merchandise that holds a steady clientele; in the Daily Gazette it has a newspaper pulling 365 days in the year for the home town; in its Weekly Gazette it has a newspaper that is not only subscribed for locally, but follows former residents to every state in the union…”

“Yes, there’s a lot to know about Xenia and the typical Miami Valley town it is – as it prepares to open its 100th county fair; as it places the finishing touches on the new city hall.”

The column also mentions the “rope walks” of the cordage factories. “And forgetting the glamor which lurks around these age-old plants, are the hard facts that they have made Xenia the cordage center of America, and it is safe to say there is not a civilized country in the world in which Xenia is not represented by Hooven and Allison and the Kelly products.”

He is correct in the fact that H&A blue heart rope was used throughout the world.

Mention is made of the Greene County Fair which that year was celebrating its centennial. “Renowned through the years for the amount, variety and quality of its exhibits it has been declared by hundreds of its admirers as the Miami Valley fair having no near rivals or competitors. The patrons of the Xenia fair come with the injunction. ‘We want to see a real county fair.’”

Some of the places he mentioned are familiar to residents, others no longer exist for various reasons, but the writer certainly did put Xenia’s best foot forward. I doubt a public relations person could have done a better job telling the virtues of the city. This is brief tour of the city ca 1939.


By Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.

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