Clarksville National Guard Armory
Built in 1930, the Clarksville National Guard Armory at 309 College Street is an Art Deco–style building constructed as part of a statewide armory building program to house National Guard companies based in Johnson County.
Citizen-soldier militias have had a constant presence in the United States since the colonial era, but it was not until Congress passed the Dick Act—sponsored by Senator Charles W. F. Dick, chairman of the Committee on the Militia—in 1903 that the National Guard became an official partner in the nation’s armed services, receiving federal support for training, equipment, and pay. Arkansas’s state militia was organized into the Arkansas National Guard as a result of the Dick Act.
The Clarksville (Johnson County) armory was constructed in 1930 as part of a statewide armory building program that was authorized by state Act 271 of 1925, which created a military fund to be used in the construction of armories. Seventeen armories in the state were built or purchased using the fund. After the Great Depression hit Arkansas, most armory building was undertaken through such New Deal agencies as the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The Clarksville building reflects a restrained version of the Art Deco style of architecture, one of the more popular styles for the armories that were built during the period.
On March 7, 1929, the Clarksville Herald-Democrat reported that Captain Fay Brown of the National Guard’s Company E, 153rd Infantry Regiment, had just returned from a meeting with Adjutant General Joe Harris of the Arkansas National Guard regarding construction of a new armory for the city. According to the newspaper article, “Captain Brown stated that the armory would be erected by the state and it would not be a tax on anyone, but the site for the building would have to be given by the town.” Harris visited Clarksville later that month to review possible locations for the building and said the state was ready to spend $20,000 for an armory. In August, a new adjutant general, E. L. Compere, said that only $17,000 was available for construction, and architect Durward Kyle estimated that another $6,000 would be needed to complete the structure. On September 19, the Herald-Democrat reported that construction was supposed to commence within thirty days.
The Herald-Democrat reported that “different lots owned by the College of the Ozarks are being considered and several people connected with the College are willing for the College to donate a site for the armory,” adding that the proposed building could also serve as a community center and a site for college and high school basketball games. On October 9, 1929, the College of the Ozarks (now the University of the Ozarks) sold Lots Six and Seven of Block Two, Wards Addition to the City of Clarksville, to the Arkansas National Guard for one dollar.
The newspaper reported that the inside clearance of the building would be 105′ x 70′ and that the two-story front section would hold offices for the National Guard, along with space for the American Legion and other civic groups. In addition, it would hold a 50′ x 94′ basketball court with seating for 1,000 spectators.
After numerous delays, on April 30, 1930, it was reported that the E. V. Bird Construction Company won the bid to construct the building for $18,720 and that construction was supposed to be completed by July 15, 1930.
National Guard units used the armory until a new Clarksville armory was constructed in the late 1970s, and the State of Arkansas formally returned possession of the land on which the armory stood to the City of Clarksville on January 29, 1979, for the price of one dollar. In the twenty-first century, the building houses the Alston-Shane Youth Center.
The Clarksville National Guard Armory is one of the few surviving armories in the state built through the state Military Department’s armory construction fund. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 24, 2007.
For additional information:
Burns and McDonnell Engineering Co., Inc. and Historical and Architectural Research LLC. Army National Guard: Draft Final Historic Context Study, December 2004. Kansas City, MO: Burns & McDonnell and Historical and Architectural Research, December 2004. On file at the Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“Clarksville National Guard Armory.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/JO0129.nr.pdf (accessed September 23, 2021).
“Clarksville Slated for N. G. Armory.” Clarksville Herald-Democrat, March 7, 1929, p. 1.
“Guard Officers Inspect New Armory Site Here.” Clarksville Herald-Democrat, August, 29, 1929, p. 1.
“Site for Armory Is Being Sought.” Clarksville Herald-Democrat. March 21, 1929, p. 1.
URS Group, Inc. Arkansas Army National Guard Intensive Historic Research and Context. Gaithersburg, MA: URS Group, February 2005. On file at the Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“Work on Amory to Start Within 30 Days.” Clarksville Herald-Democrat, September 19, 1929, p. 1.
Mark K. Christ
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
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