WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH: Olive Arms saved Mahoning Valley Historical Society

Photo courtesy of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society Olive F.A. Arms sits on the porch of her home, Greystone, with a dog as a young woman. The home was built in 1905 and she lived there until she died in 1960. She left it to the Mahoning Valley Historical Society and it became what is now known as the Arms Museum.

Olive F. A. Arms was a strong, accomplished woman whose generosity helped establish a permanent home for the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

Olive graduated from the Wood Street School in Youngstown in 1879. She became an accomplished artist, first studying drawing and painting from Mrs. Casper, a local teacher. Olive Arms continued her art education at the Tompson / Peebles and Bradford schools in New York City.

She traveled with family throughout Europe, drawing and painting landscapes and designs that caught her interest. Olive married Wilford P. Arms, a distant cousin, in 1899.

Olive was instrumental in the arts and crafts style and design of her home, Greystone, which was built in 1905. The arts and crafts design style began as a philosophical movement concerned with unifying human creativity and art with labor. Medieval influences abound throughout arts and crafts decorative motifs through the use of handmade details and natural elements.

Olive’s creative skills can be seen throughout the home in everything from the overall look to its door hinges, furniture design and light fixtures. Her passion for art, beauty and nature extended to the home’s grounds and gardens.

She wrote: “I cannot think of a house by itself without including as an essential part of it, its outward surroundings and external nature: the woods that provide its joist and rafters, the earth that supplies its mortar, brick, and stone; the coal whence it derives its heat; the lake that provides its water; the trees that ward off the wind in Winter and shield it from the sun in Summer; and the garden that provides its flowers. All these contribute their part to the completion of the ideal home.”

Olive Arms lived at Greystone until her death in 1960, but her artistic abilities continue to create a welcoming place that enchants its visitors. Olive Arms’ donation of her home to the MVHS came at a critical time in the organization’s history, just as it was in danger of dissolution.

After its founding in 1875, MVHS was incorporated in 1909, and had the support of many prominent local residents. Interest waned, however, as supporters devoted more of their time to local industry and commercial ventures.

By the 1950s, the society was financially unstable, with its collections being housed at the main public library building at the corner of Wick and Rayen avenues. Olive Arms became involved in trying to revive the floundering institution, and was named honorary president of MVHS in 1956 at age 91.

Olive Arms decided to provide her home as a place where local history would be celebrated, and where the public could experience Greystone’s unique architecture and the beautiful and unusual things that she had collected over the years.

Upon her death in 1960, she left Greystone, along with its contents and a generous endowment, to the MVHS. The site opened in 1961 as the Arms Museum, named in honor of Olive Arms’ parents, Charles Dayton and Hannah Wick Arms.



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