|Address:||431 South Boulevard, Edmond, Oklahoma||County||Oklahoma|
Edmond Historical Society/Museum
Constructed in 1936 for the 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division of the Oklahoma National Guard. During it’s history it has served many purposes such as National Guard Armory, roller skating rink, community center, all sports offices, Parks and Recreation City Offices, meeting hall, and home to local arts programs, now it is the offices of the Historical Society and Museum for Edmond. It has undergone many alternations to it’s original interior to accommodate those purposes, but these changes have not compromised the historic and architectural integrity of the outside of the building. The original architect was Colonel Bryan W. Nolan, the work was begun in November 1935 and completed in 1936 at a cost of $39,501. The armory was originally constructed for military purposes to include arms storage and staging. Located at the corner of 5th and Boulevard, it follows a 1930s public building with depression style “modern” architecture using native red sandstone similar to the 1890s University of Center Oklahoma School Building. It originally featured a large vaulted ceiling drill hall, a target range, offices, barracks, arms storage, stage, and garage.
The building was listed in 1991 on the National Register of Historic sites.
- Edmond Historical Society Museum website
- National Register of Historic Places, Digital Archive
- The Living New Deal
One of the biggest and most visible WPA programs in Oklahoma was the armory building projects. By March 1937, one hundred and twenty-six armories had been built or were near completion throughout the United States. Fifty-one of these were in Oklahoma. When the program ended in 1943, fifty-four armories had been constructed and fifty-three reconstructed or improved throughout the state. On June 20, 1935, The Edmond Sun announced that the city had been chosen as a possible location for one of these armories. According to the paper, the “new armories would serve as community centers, replace old and inadequate structures now being used in many places by the guard, create work for thousands of unemployed laborers, and serve as a permanent improvement for each city in which they are constructed.”^ By September 10, 1935, the city council had been notified that the city, acting as the sponsor, was assured of being awarded an armory. The council chose a site in the southeast corner of Stephenson Park for the armory’s location. Construction on the building began in November 1935 and proceeded at a slow pace due to the nature of the stonework. Although the cornerstone was cast in 1936, the available evidence suggests that the building was completed in 1937. As a WPA project, the construction of the armory provided a much needed influx of money into Edmond f s economy. A contemporary newspaper account reported that in Edmond alone, the average monthly WPA payroll was $3,500. 4 The armory project was not the only WPA project in Edmond but it was one of the largest. Reports of the cost of the building ranged from $32,000 to $40,000. Working off of an estimate of $32,624, the Edmond Booster reported that approximately $15,000 would be spent locally for materials and approximately $11,500 for local labor. Less than $6,000 would be spent outside for materials. 5 This expenditure of money would not only have helped individual families but would have been of benefit to local merchants and material suppliers. The Edmond Armory served as the home of a local unit of the Oklahoma National Guard the Headquarters Company of the 179th Infantry Unit of the 45th Infantry Division. Oklahoma guard units had been a part of the 45th Division since 1923. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Guard was used extensively during civil disturbances, to aid in relief after natural disasters, and to carry out the orders of the state’s governors. In 1935, Edmond’s Headquarters Company consisted of sixty-three men and two officers. As it previously had no permanent facility of its own, the new armory provided a valuable building to the Guard. The interior of the facility included a 75′ x 100′ drill hall, a firing range in the basement, and miscellaneous rooms including a store room, locker room, classroom, office, and truck storage space. The armory allowed the Headquarters Company of the 179th Infantry to achieve a greater level of military efficiency and preparedness as well as providing a secure place for the unit’s property. This preparation would become of vital importance with the outbreak of World War II as the Oklahoma National Guard was mobilized in September 1940 and later saw active duty in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy.
ARCHITECTURAL SIGNIFICANCE; The Edmond Armory is an excellent example of WPA architecture in Oklahoma. Bryan W. Nolan, an architect and major in the Guard, was the supervising architect for the Oklahoma WPA armory building project. Construction began in late 1935 and was completed in 1937. The use of native sandstone exemplifies the WPA’s goals of using local material when possible and keeping the design simple enough for unskilled workers. However, the Edmond Armory displays a certain level of competence with the skillful cutting and laying of the stone in such a manner as to highlight its natural qualities. This stone was quarried locally and brought to the building site in a rough state. There, it was dressed by the WPA laborers. The use of the native sandstone as well as the building’s barrel roof with a one story, flat roofed extension to the east reflects the physical environment instead of an urban-rural dichotomy. Oklahoma’s WPA armories were constructed to accommodate either one, two, or four units. This dictated the size and design of the building. The Edmond Armory is similar to other Oklahoma armories housing one unit. The standardization of designs accommodated the skill levels of a work force with little or no construction experience. Variations in construction did occur depending on the availability of local materials such as sandstone or brick. As in the case of the Edmond Armory, thirty-three of the armories constructed by mid-1937 were of locally available stone. The other eighteen were constructed of brick.^ The period of significance for the Edmond Armory is from 1935 to 1940, These years delineate the period from the beginning of the construction of the building to the year that the Oklahoma National Guard was mobilized for World War II. The Edmond National Guard unit moved out of this armory in 1968 and into a new building. Since that time, the city of Edmond has used the facility for various purposes. It currently is used as the Edmond Historic Community Center and houses offices for the Edmond Historical Trust and the Edmond Historical Society. The listing of the Edmond Armory in the National Register of Historic Places would be a great boost to the preservation movement in Edmond. (2)
U.S. Work Projects Administration, Oklahoma; Final Report of Activities and Accomplishments. Washington, D.C., 1943. (Typewritten manuscript, Documents Section. Edmon Low Library, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma.)