Published on November 6th, 2013 | by Daniel Rahe3
Historic Tacoma shines the spotlight on our Armory Building
Over the years, Tacoma’s Armory, completed in 1908, has served primarily as quarters for cavalry and infantry troops, though it has also been a sporting events center, a concert hall, a graduation ceremony hall, a venue for presidential speechmaking, and a roller derby rink. With its sale to developer Fred Roberson (who famously redeveloped the Harmon building downtown) in July, it has passed for the first time from serving predominantly as a military facility to being a behemoth of possibility: Roberson purchased the building with no definitive plan for its future use.
Last night, Historic Tacoma, the local preservation policy and advocacy organization, teamed with EarthWise Architectural Salvage and the City’s Art at Work Month program to open the Armory’s main arena for a night of public historic appreciation and brainstorming.
Judging by the attending crowd of about 100 curious citizens, artists, city employees, architects, and preservationists, there is a lot of interest in this beautiful brick structure, with its arrow-slit windows and stylized battlement walls. Historic Tacoma presented the history of the Armory, from its initial purpose as a base for controlling urban insurrection to its more modern uses as National Guard training facilities. New owner Fred Roberson was on hand to answer questions from the crowd about his interest in this building (apparently, the man likes a challenge).
In keeping with celebration of Art at Work Month, artist Gabriel Brown made an appearance, dressed in his now-familiar Old City Hall Hard Time Shoe Shine guise, as did Diane Knuckey Hansen’s First Night horse sculpture (perhaps the first horse to pass through those doors in decades). But the main show seemed to be the structure itself. Few resisted the urge to go exploring with barely concealed wonder.
The exterior of the Armory is familiar to many of us, though not as many have seen inside it or journeyed into the office space and basement. We were lucky enough to explore the building from end to end, balcony to basement, and snapped a few photographs along the way. As we strolled through the halls and stooped into the eerie lower levels, we pondered the possibilities. What does the future hold for the Armory?