The Lexington Armory was named in honor of MG John R. Groves Jr. during a ceremony on August 26, 2005. Groves served as Adjutant General from December 1995 to August 2001. Major General Groves died in September 2003 in a sport aviation accident in Bardstown, Kentucky at the age of 57.
A military organization of some type has existed in Lexington since at least the Civil War, when the Lexington Rifles were active there. The Rifles split during the Civil War, with some units fighting for the North and others fighting for the South. There was not a federally recognized unit in Lexington during World War I. Troop B of the 1st Squadron of Cavalry was also located in Lexington in the 1920s. The company first started in Louisa in 1920, before moving to Lexington in 1924 where it was organized as the Machine Gun Squadron. The unit was reorganized as the 123rd Cavalry in 1929, and in the early years of its existence served strike duty in Harlan and Manchester, and in Corbin for civil disturbances. During the Louisville flood of 1937, the Lexington unit was one of the first on the scene. During the flood, the unit operated a short wave radio (W9DHY), that supplied several commercial operators to stations in Louisville and Lexington. This radio was one of the few means of communication with Louisville during the flood. Lexington units served in World War II, and upon return all cavalry units in the state were disbanded. In addition to the above units, the 441st Aviation Company was stationed in Lexington, as were two Signal Companies and the 5th Target (Tab) Battalion. The 138th Group was also stationed there for a while.
The National Guard armory in Lexington is currently home to four companies - Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the 138th Field Artillery Brigade, and Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the 2/138th Field Artillery. Previously, the Headquarters of the 138th Field Artillery was located in Louisville. These units have been organized in Lexington since the 1970s. Before the current units, the Headquarters Company of the 1/149th Infantry was located in Lexington. The unit was first organized in Harlan in 1921, then moved to Anchorage, Kentucky (a suburb of Louisville), and to Cynthiana and Olive Hill before it was reorganized in Lexington in May, 1930.
The current armory and OMS shop are the second ones constructed in Lexington. The first armory was built in 1941, while the OMS was finished in 1947-48. The Works Progress Administration completed the armory, which resembles the Richmond Armory and was designed by the same architects - C.C. and S.K. Weber. The old OMS shop resembles those in Bowling Green and Glasgow. The National Guard moved out of these buildings in 1971 and 1972, when the new armory and OMS shop was completed. Both of the old buildings were given to the Fayette County government after the Guard moved out. For a while, the Guard used a building behind the airport as a meeting place before moving into the armory. Currently, the old armory is occupied by the Metro Government Police Department, and the old OMS shop is used by the Lexington Roads Department.
The old armory was renovated in 1992, and much of its historic integrity was destroyed. Dropped ceilings, carpeting, new light fixtures, and new windows and doors were all put in. Some walls were removed, and the room configurations were changed. The old drill hall retains some of its original features - an in-kind wooden floor was put down, and some of the original heating equipment is in place, as are some of the windows.
The National Guard has participated in many state active duties such as flood and snow duty, strikes, civil disturbances, and coal disputes. The unit was activated during the floods of March 1997, and during the snowstorms of 1995 and 1998. In addition to state active duty, the Guard participates in parades, color guards, and high school activities. The armory's drill hall is rented out for a variety of social and sporting events. The Airport Authority and some government agencies use the classrooms in the armory for meetings and classes.
The current armory is a two-story concrete and concrete block building located in the vicinity of Bluegrass Airport. The OMS is set near the armory. The OMS is identical to the one in Louisville in that it is a two story concrete block building with four garage bays.
Lexington Works Progress Administration Armory
The current armory is the second one built in Lexington. The first armory in Lexington was built by the Works Progress Administration at 1799 Old Frankfort Pike, near the intersection of that road and New Circle Road in 1941. An OMS shop was built behind the WPA armory in 1947.
Photos and information courtesy Kentucky Heritage Council -- Report No. 25" Inventory and Evaluation of National Guard Armories in the State of Kentucky" - 1999 by Kate Carothers.