Pine Bluff National Guard Armory
The Pine Bluff National Guard Armory at 623 West Second Avenue in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) is a single-story, Art Deco–style structure built in 1931–1932. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 16, 2001.
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.
Seventeen armories—including the Mena National Guard Armory, Marianna National Guard Armory, Batesville National Guard Armory, and Pine Bluff 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 Works Progress Administration (WPA). Most of those armories reflect a restrained version of the Art Deco style of architecture.
In 1931, Pine Bluff decided to seek Military Fund financing for a new armory to house its local National Guard unit, Company I, after John Craig and his wife offered to donate a corner lot at Second and Beech Streets for the project. Adjutant General E. L. Compere approved the site in June, and Durward F. Kyle of Pine Bluff, the Military Department’s architect, began designing the building, which the Arkansas Gazette reported “will be 73 by 130 feet, facing on West Second, and will be constructed of brick, concrete, stone and steel.”
Construction began on September 25, 1931, after Pine Bluff contractors Quinn and Quinn were selected for the project, with local funds secured for the construction job until state money would be released in November. Though originally expected to cost $25,000, it ultimately cost $5,000 more. Durward turned the keys to the 9,262-square-foot building over to Captain R. M. Roe of Company I on May 21, 1932, with the Gazette explaining that “the building was completed several weeks ago, but because the fund to pay for the armory buildings was depleted, the contractors could not turn the keys of the building over to Captain Roe.”
The finished armory featured a two-story head house fronting a single-story drill hall. Kyle’s design reflected the Art Deco style of architecture, with the National Register nomination noting that “the signature vertical lines that rise from [the] building’s foundation to roofline largely defines Art Deco architecture. The projecting entryway, buttresses, and tall, narrow symmetrically placed groups of windows all add to the armory’s vertically designed appearance.”
National Guard units were based in the Pine Bluff Armory until 1974, when the National Guard sold the building to Ten-Ark, Inc., for $25,101. Arkansas River Education Services Cooperative later acquired the building and used it as classroom space, though it was not in use by 2020.
For additional information:
“$25,000 National Guard Armory to Be Erected at Pine Bluff” Arkansas Gazette, June 12, 1931, p. 2.
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 December 11, 2020).
Johnson, T. A. “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/JE0440.nr.pdf (accessed December 11, 2020).
“National Guard Will Build New Armory at Pine Bluff.” Arkansas Gazette, June 19, 1932, p. 2.
“New A.N.G. Armory at Pine Bluff Ready for Use.” Arkansas Gazette, May 23, 1931, p. 2.
“Work Begun on $25,000 Armory at Pine Bluff.” Arkansas Gazette, September 26, 1931, p. 3.
Mark K Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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