Hot Springs National Guard Armory
The Hot Springs National Guard Armory at 210 Woodbine Street in Hot Springs (Garland County) is a single-story, Art Deco–style structure built in 1937–1938 with assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 5, 2017.
Citizen-soldier militias have had a constant presence in the United States since the colonial era, but it was not until Congress passed the Militia Act of 1903—also known as the Dick Act for sponsor Senator Charles W. F. Dick, chairman of the Committee on the Militia—that the National Guard became an official partner in the nation’s armed services, receiving federal support for training, equipment, and wages. Arkansas’s state militia was organized into the Arkansas National Guard as a result of the Dick Act.
Seventeen armories—including the Helena National Guard Armory, Batesville National Guard Amory, and Hot Springs National Guard Armory—were constructed 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. After the Great Depression hit Arkansas, most armory building was done through such New Deal agencies as the WPA. Most of those armories reflect a restrained version of the Art Deco style, one of the more popular styles for the armories built during the period.
Hot Springs was the home base for Hospital Company Number 216, the Second Battalion of the 142nd Artillery and its Headquarters Unit, and the newly created 206th Coastal Artillery Regiment, Battery H, when officials in the spring of 1937 decided to seek funds to build an armory for the units, which had been housed in rented buildings for which the leases were expiring. After Hot Springs sources raised a required $6,000 match, the city applied for a WPA grant to build a National Guard armory, which was expected to cost around $30,000.
Construction started on August 23, 1937, and was completed in time for the units to perform training drills there in late July 1938. Built of hollow clay tiles, the Hot Springs National Guard Armory included a façade with tall, vertical features that masked its barrel-vaulted room and reflected the Art Deco details that were popular with armories of the era. The spacious drilling area could also be used to hold community events, providing space for around 3,000 people. The building’s final cost was around $40,000, which likely included $2,742 from the Arkansas State Military Department to pay for floors, paint, and landscaping.
The military units that called the Hot Springs National Guard Armory home were deployed to Alaska during World War II, and the building was used by the local Boys Club and a small Arkansas State Guard medical unit. It served the Guard until a new armory was eventually constructed, and in 1981 the building was renovated to serve as a senior center for the people of Garland County. CHI St. Vincent took over the operation in 1991 but left for a new facility in 2018 when a leaky roof caused mold in the building. Garland County spent $200,000 rehabilitating the old armory and it became home to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Oaklawn Senior Health Care Center.
For additional information:
Bradley, Sherial. “Hot Springs National Guard Armory.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/GA0886_nr.pdf (accessed March 20, 2020).
Hope, Holly. An Ambition to be Preferred: New Deal Recovery Efforts and Architecture in Arkansas, 1933–1943. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 2006. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed March 20, 2020).
Showers, David. “Senior Center Will Not Return to Armory.” Sentinel-Record, August 9, 2018, p. 1A.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
Last Updated: 05/13/2022