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Neil Armstrong’s Hometown

August 31, 2021

This photo was taken at the edge of town — Wapakoneta, Ohio — on August 2nd, 2021. I arrived about an hour after sunrise. Wapakoneta, Ohio, has a population of about 9,000 persons. It’s the birthplace and hometown of the first man to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong.

Welcome to Wapakoneta, Ohio, Hometown of Neil Armstrong

Wapakoneta follows the common custom in small towns across America of posting photos of their servicemen and women, past and present, along downtown light poles. Armstrong’s service as a Navy flyer earned him a banner bearing his Navy photo. A banner for Astronaut Armstrong is nearby.

A street banner honoring Astronaut Neil Armstrong. Wapakoneta, Ohio

At the center of town, Armstrong is depicted in a statue waving to crowds as he rode in a convertible during the ticker-tape parade through the streets of Manhattan. The parade, of course, celebrated the return of the Apollo 11 space mission, the first instance of man landing on the Moon.

Statue of Neil Armstrong waving to the crowds. Downtown Wapakoneta, Ohio

Opened in 1972, the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta contains artifacts from the Apollo 11 mission and other contributions to the history of aeronautics and space flight. The museum is located at the edge of town and attracts over 40,000 visitors per year.

Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Wapakoneta, Ohio
Mockups of the Gemini Spacecraft (left) and Apollo Command Module (right). Armstrong Air & Space Museum
Neil Armstrong’s old flight logs and other artifacts from his boyhood in Wapakoneta
Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s actual backup spacesuit. Armstrong Air & Space Museum, Wapakoneta, Ohio
Moon Rock. Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Wapakoneta, Ohio

Wapakoneta is in many ways a typical Ohio-midwestern small town. In the late 17th Century the Shawnee tribe settled in this area after having been driven their lands further south by white settlers and the Catawba, Cherokee, and Chickasaw nations. The name “Wapakoneta” might be from the Shawnee language for “place of white bones,” but that’s not certain.

Classic buildings at the central intersection in Wapakoneta. Junction of Auglaize and Willipie Streets.

In 1748, three decades before the American Revolution, the French built a fort here called “Fort au Glaize” after the Auglaize River which runs nearby. The river flows northward, eventually joining the Maumee River to drain into Lake Erie near Toledo, Ohio. “Auglaize” is French for “river of great clay.”

In the 21st Century, the City Bakery on Auglaize Street (shown) provides a good selection of donuts.

Classic buildings and storefronts, including the City Bakery. Auglaize Street, Wapakoneta, Ohio

Happily, the town theatre, known as the “Wapa,” is not politically correct about the image displayed on its sign.

The Wapa Theatre, 15 Willipie Street in Wapakoneta

As can be imagined, many photo opportunities exist for tourists to associate themselves with the town’s main hero. This one is on Auglaize Street in front of the Chamber of Commerce.

Astronaut photo opportunity. Auglaize Street, Wapakoneta, Ohio

Wapakoneta is also the seat of Auglaize County, Ohio. The Auglaize County Courthouse was built in 1894 and is still in use today. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Auglaize County Courthouse. Wapakoneta, Ohio
Auglaize County Courthouse. Wapakoneta, Ohio
Auglaize County in the State of Ohio

The courthouse’s statue of Lady Justice stood atop the building until 1953 when it was taken down due to deterioration. In 1994, to commemorate the courthouse’s centennial, the statue was restored and placed in the courthouse atrium, or Great Hall, on the main floor.

Statue of Lady Justice. Auglaize County Courthouse. Wapakoneta, Ohio
“America 1928.” Artwork inside the Auglaize County Courthouse. Wapakoneta, Ohio
Artist’s rendering of the French-built Fort au Glaize, or the Wapakoneta Trading Post, along the Auglaize River. Auglaize County Courthouse.

Finally, another statue of Neil Armstrong can be found in front of the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, this one of him as a boy. The story goes that Neil begged his parents to buy him a 10-cent balsa-wood glider. They did, and then the dreaming started.

Statue of Neil Armstrong as a boy. Armstrong Air & Space Museum. Wapakoneta, Ohio

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

All photos were taken by the author on August 2nd and August 3rd, 2021

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