Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower

Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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May 27

The Magnificent Steele Building

Posted on May 27, 2016 at 10:23 AM by Elise Kelly

On April 3rd, 1974, a ferocious tornado barrelled through the city of Xenia, OH and took out buildings, imploded houses, uprooted trees and knocked down power lines.
   Damage to James' SuperValu in Xenia, 1974

Shingles and timber flew through the air that day as strong, destructive winds toppled everything in the tornado's path. A casualty of the tornado was the magnificent five-story Steele Building (See Below).

                                           Steele Building, 1908

 Steele building red.jpg Constructed in 1896, the Steele Building was built with a steel frame structure and was fire-proof. The architectural style appears to be Dutch Colonial Revival because of its stepped gables and its brick facade. This architectural style was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Several examples of this style can be found in Hudson, Ohio.  

The Steele building was once described as gloomy, frustrated and sinister looking in the moonlight as it dominated Xenia's main intersection.

The McGervey and LeSourd Insurance Co. were the building's first occupants. Up until the early 1970s the company remained in the building (See Article Below).

                     LeSourd first inhabitants of Steele Building.jpg
                                      Xenia Daily Gazette, May 23, 1896
The structure's first three floors were devoted to shops and offices, while the fourth and fifth floors were leased to the Masonic fraternity.

F.J.H. Schell, a former Xenia jeweler, operated a shop on the first floor (See Image Below).

                                       F.J.H. Schell, Jeweler, 1908

Schell sold diamonds, watches, jewelry and sterling silver (See Article Below).

   Schell Steele Building clipping excerpt.jpg
                                        Xenia Daily Gazette, May 21, 1895

By the mid twentieth century, Schell's jewelry store no longer operated in the Steele Building. However, what other businesses were occupying the Steele Building by the early 1960s?  Let's examine a listing of the occupants from a 1962 street listing register (See Below).

Listing 1962 Steele Building.jpg
                                           1962 Xenia Street Register

Twelve years after this register came out, the catastrophic tornado swept through Xenia and severely damaged the steel frame structure. Initially the city was going to tear down just the upper floors of the building but once the structure was thoroughly assessed, it was deemed beyond repair.  Steele Building during the Xenia Tornado april 6, 1974 arrow.jpg
Steele Building, April 6, 1974. Three days after the tornado hit.

Soon after the tornado had struck, the seventy-eight year old building was demolished. One Xenia man was heartbroken to know that he would no longer be able to look up and see the familiar facade. (See Article Below)

                heatrbroken steele building gone excert.jpg
                                      Xenia Daily Gazette, April 17, 1974

Although the Steele Building has been gone for over forty years, many Xenia and Greene County residents still cherish their memories of this grand, imposing city structure. 

This Week's Trivia Question: Who was J.D. Steele?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question: Our first contest winner wrote about her Uncle Ike who shot the Cedarville Sheriff. What record did the Greene County Archives have to help her with her story? - Answer: A Marriage Record

Greene County, 1803-1908 - edited by A Committee of the Home Coming Association, 1908.

Robinson, George, F. History of Greene County, Ohio. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1902.


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