Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Art Moderne Indiana armories

The Indianapolis Heslar Naval Armory, along with another naval armory in Michigan City and an infantry armory in Darlington, were the focus of the feature story in the 1938 issue of Architectural Concrete magazine for their striking and cost-saving use of reinforced concrete. All three armories were designed by Indianapolis architects Ben H. Bacon and John P. Parrish in the streamlined Art Moderne style and built using labor supplied from the Works Progress Administration, known as the WPA. Completed during the Great Depression, concrete was chosen over other masonry choices due to lower materials cost as well as for the relative ease in training unskilled labor how to work with concrete.

The Drawings + Documents Archive maintains a collection of Architectural Concrete publications from 1935 to 1947. Produced by the Portland Cement Association, a national advocacy group for concrete manufacturers, the publication profiled building projects where concrete was used extensively. The article on the Indiana armories was written by the architects for all three projects, Bacon and Parrish, after the buildings were finished and had their dedication ceremonies.

An excerpt:
To many people an armory is just a place to go to see a wrestling match, prize fight, or a visiting soprano, but it has far more serious functions. It is a peace time training station for a war time army, a mobilization point for the National Guard in times of civil unrest, and a public shelter for victims of floods, hurricanes, and other local disasters. In many communities, particularly smaller towns and cities, the armory is the civic center. An armory can be the most used and most useful building in any community.

For this reason armory construction for many years has tended toward sturdy, permanent structures of architectural merit. And it is for this reason that the three new Indiana armories, erected during the past two years, are sturdy architectural concrete buildings, designed to reflect credit to the surrounding areas, and built to stand hard use for many a long year.

To learn more about the Indiana armories, visit Indiana Landmark's Hidden Gems website.

Images: Architectural Concrete, v. 5, no. 1, 1938. Trade Catalog Collection, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

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