Tallahassee Old Armory 

Prior to becoming the Tallahassee Senior Center, the old armory on North Monroe Street was one of the best military fortresses in the state. After WWI in June 1924, the Leon County Militia formed as Company M, 124th Infantry under Captain Charles Norman Hobbs.

Tallahassee’s military units were heard to be renting space above a grocery store at the corner of Monroe and Pensacola. The space was called Capital City Armory.

The push for a new armory was greatly needed, as the State did not even own an armory in its capital, and a new building would bring more military units to Tallahassee. Therefore, with the push from one of Company M’s commanding officers, Hugh L. Mays, and a freeholder election of 185 yes to 51 no, plans for a new armory were formed. The city purchased land for roughly $5,997.11. This is how the Old Armory became located on North Monroe Street. Further funding was received from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” programs. With this grant, the construction for the armory came to about roughly $65,000 to $66,197 and the total cost of building, including the land purchased, was between $73,911.77 and $74,365.

Architect E.D. Fitchner and Logan Brothers Construction Company of Tampa were selected for the project. The armory was completed in June of 1935. The architecture of the building is Art Deco for its modern symmetric structure decorated with geometric brick designs. The front has a fort-like or castle-like entrance with ascending steps to a stone arch over two massive double doors. Adding to the dominating elegance of the building are corner towers, each with an image of an eagle in stone. Some of the military orientation from its original use can still be seen. Most noticeable is the stone imprinted words “Leon County Armory” on its arch. To each side of these words is a Roman Shield. 

The design of the armory meant to serve both the federal military unit and the community. The location site file described the middle floor as having the drill hall and offices of commanding officers. At the time, the drill hall was one the largest auditoriums in the city. The upper floor was more offices and a gallery. The auditorium was used for community activities, such as shows, dances, roller skating and sporting events. The lower floor was closed off to the public because it stored ammunition and equipment for the local unit and all of northwest Florida.

Once the building was completed, a formal dedication was performed on November 8, 1935. The ceremony included inspections of the entire building, a ball, and presentation of the armory to the State Armory Board. Under Captain Hugh L. Mays, Company M, 124th Infantry moved into the armory. Over many years and leaders, this company served its state and nation. On November 25, 1940, the company was mobilized for World War II, and the men in the company transferred to other divisions. Officially, Company M was disbanded in 1945. During the time the troops went to war, the Florida State Guard utilized the armory.

When WWII ended, Company A, 124th Infantry was organized for the armory on January 24, 1947, under Ralph C. Davis. This company’s service was mainly used for field training, natural disasters, and political ceremonies. When not in field training, a typical day in the armory included morning meetings, classes, and training drills. This armory was in use housing units and headquarters until 1975. When the Tallahassee National Guard outgrew the building, it moved into the current Henry W. McMillan National Guard Armory. 


In 1973, Mayor Joan Heggen appointed 14 people as members of the first Senior Citizens Advisory Board. Tallahassee City Commissioners designated $100,000 to be invested in the project. Margaret Lynn Duggar, then director of the Senior Society Planning Council, was elected Chairperson. The Advisory Board toured many possible locations for the Senior Center, but kept their eye on the “Old Armory.”

August 1976, the first floor of the Armory was approved for use for the Senior Center. The second floor was assigned to the Recreation Department, used for roller-skating, and the Motor Pool Building went to the Library for Bookmobiles. Soon, Older Americans Act funding became available for construction and renovation of Senior Centers.  “We were prepared,” Margaret Lynn states. “The City Commission was supportive and the community was behind the project.” In 1977, the City of Tallahassee’s new Department of Community Improvement was identified as the agency to manage the Senior Center.


April 1978, Mayor Neal Sapp performed the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Senior Center’s Grand Opening. Mary Crozier began working as the Center’s first director in March, operating in the small space that was ready for use. Mary’s programming ideas and abundant enthusiasm began to overflow. Mary credits “a heartwarming spirit of excitement and cooperation from lots of different people that made things work!” Programs quickly began to occupy the 5,000 sq. feet available for use.


In October 1980, Judge Richard Ervine led the filing of a Charter to form the Tallahassee Senior Citizens Foundation, created for the purpose of aiding and assisting the Tallahassee Senior Center.

The mission of the Tallahassee Senior Citizens Foundation is to generate funding to support the programs and services of the Tallahassee Senior Center and its participants.

After acquiring the Motor Pool building in 1980 for Senior Center use, renovations were completed in 1983, adding the Art Studio with a breezeway joining the two buildings. The 2nd floor became more accessible thanks to the installation of the elevator, completed in 1985.

Joe Jackson became the second Director of the Tallahassee Senior Center in 1986, following the retirement of Mary Crozier. During Joe’s almost six years, the Senior Center underwent many facility renovations, including the conversion of the second floor from a skating rink and basketball court to a multipurpose auditorium, complete with stage, curtains to reduce glare, and new windows. During Joe’s era, the Senior Center expanded and revamped its parking lot, leased additional parking spaces at Lake Ella Manor, built the prominent marquee sign, and completely renovated the third floor for classes, meetings, and support groups.

Once the second and third floors were renovated, in 1987 Mayor Betty Harley performed the ribbon cutting for the newly renovated upper levels of the old armory, dedicating the entire building as the Tallahassee Senior Center.

Johnnye Luebkemann became the third Director of the Tallahassee Senior Center in April 1992, after Joe Jackson accepted a new position with the City’s Department of Community Improvement. Already familiar with Center programs as the Coordinator for Senior Services, Johnnye worked to bring state-wide recognition to this Center for active adults and continued to focus on additional activities and special events through the next four years.

In August 1996, Sheila Salyer became the fourth Director of the Tallahassee Senior Center, following Johnnye Luebkemann’s retirement.  Sheila’s vision was to continue to fill the space available at the Center, including adding more Saturday events and special programs.


Thank you to Elizabeth Santoro, Colonel Mohr, historian Diana Godwin, The Florida Department of State, Tallahassee Masonic Society, Historic Tallahassee Preservation Board, and the Tallahassee Senior Center for the above information.