Marion Armory

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The definition of an armory, according to Marion Armory employee Sean Brady, is a place to drill and operate military units. However, the Marion Armory is much more than this. The Armory has had an impact on both local and national events. The history of the Marion Armory is extensive, spanning from the beginning of Marion to the present day. The Armory deals with local events and the community, while also participating in national and international events. The structure of the Armory has both function and entertainment-value.

Contents

Construction

The Marion Armory after its completion in 1938
The history of the Armory, spanning from the beginning of Marion to today, is influenced by the many military groups that have operated out of Marion. Military units formed in the 1800’s, the Marion Pioneers, Marion Riflemen, and Marion Rifle Company, and those formed during the Civil War, set the foundation for what would later be the Armory. In 1933, a building previously inhabited by the Smaltz Glove Company was purchased by the state to act as an armory. Modifications were made to the building in order to supply the needs of the military. Finally, in the mid-1930’s consideration was given to build a military armory to house and train the troops residing in Marion. Plans to construct the armory were decided by the Indiana State Armory Board (Review 5). However, in mid 1936, there were no apparent means by which funds could be raised. Hopes for the founding of an Armory seemed to be dwindling (“Marion Armory Establishment Hopes Fading” 2). However, after the necessary funds were procured construction began. Over the years of 1936-1938, the construction of the Marion Armory was completed at a cost of $110,000 (Review 5).

The Armory Through the Years

People and buses in front of the Armory during the 1940s
In the 1950’s, area was added onto the building to be used for offices. Also in the 1950’s, the motor pool residing in the basement area was moved to a smaller building built as a maintenance shop for the motor pool. Known as the Operational Maintenance Shop (OMS) No. 15, it is a part of the state’s Anny National Guard surface maintenance systems (Brady, Interview). By the year 2000, Indiana had 21 maintenance shops in 18 cities servicing 3000 vehicles. The Marion facility was replaced in 2000 with the completion of a new OMS. Dedicated July 9, 2000, to a crowd of cheering soldiers, the new 9732 square foot building replaced the old, outdated facility. The old building, with its two bays and limited space was inconvenient to work in and required the soldiers to slide under vehicles or put them up on jacks in order to do work on them. In the new building soldiers can work on the vehicles while standing up. This new building not only increases convenience and efficiency. It increases the safety of the men working there. The readiness of the Guard stationed at the armory is also enhanced (Waters). The second floor of the Armory, a small area primarily used for office space, was severely damaged in the 1997 flood. The area was completely remodeled (Brady, Interview).

Events at the Armory

The Armory deals with local events and the community, while also participating in national and international events. The military unit stationed at the Armory can be summoned for local, state, and federal matters. After the capture of Bataan during War World II, the brutal Bataan Death March ensued in which captured American and Filipino soldiers were forced by the Japanese to march 85 miles. The 38th Infantry Division, of which the Marion Armory was a part, was sent to liberate Bataan (Brady, Interview). As for local and state matters, they are often called to help with emergencies. After the 1997 flood, the military was ordered to help those hit hard by the disaster. Another aspect of the Armory that deals with local events is entertainment. The basketball court on the main floor of the Armory is used for community basketball games. Another community service held at the Armory is a dog obedience class held by the Mississinewa Valley Obedience Training Club (Renken). In addition, community concerts and events are held there (Brady, Interview). One such event, held in 1939, was a kind of talent show hosted by an entertainer from Marion, Polk McClain. The primary purpose of this broadcast was to test the latest broadcast technology. Over three hundred local people performed while being watched either on stage or from the several televisions set up on the south side of the Armory (Munn).

Form and Function

The structure of the Marion Armory has both form and function. The mostly brick building, with its large windows actually faces away from the road, with the front of the building facing away from the road. Prominent in the front yard of the Armory is a 52-ton M60 tank, placed there in 1991 to help people identify the Armory. After the new M60-A3 tanks made the tank obsolete, it was given to the Armory. Although the tank’s gun no longer functions, the tank is used for training by the guardsmen (Renken). When the Armory was built, the basement was used as a motor pool, defined as a group of motor vehicles kept at a military installation for use by the personnel (Brady, Interview). However, in the 1950’s the motor pool was moved to a new location and the main basement area has been reconstructed into a storage area. In one corner of the basement is a barred room known as the vault. It is used for the storage of sensitive military items such as weapons.

Another interesting structural quality of the basement is the ceiling, which has ridges, built into it. These allow the basketball court above to spring with the motions of the players above. Holes along the floor of the above above court allow air to escape and return as the floor moves up and down.

The main floor of the Armory has two functions. One is entertainment, the other is teaching. The basketball court, which is used by the community, is the main source of entertainment here. However, this main floor is also used to house the concerts that are periodically held there. One room, originally used as a concession stand, was remodeled into a recruitment office. A room on the opposing side of the main floor that was initially used as a ticket both for the various concerts and basketball games has been remodeled into offices for the Headquarters and Headquarters Company or HHC. This company handles logistics, a branch of military science having to do with obtaining, maintaining, and transporting materials, personnel, and facilities.

In the mid 1950’s a section was added onto the original structure to be used for offices. However, in 1999 remodeling began, turning these offices into classrooms and libraries used to instruct the men at the Armory. Another remodeling that took place had to do with the women’s locker room. Due to the lack of women employees, the locker room was converted into a small storage room and part of the HHC office. A door once part of the storage room has been periodically opened and resealed for convenience throughout the time the room has been in existence. The large windows which adorn the walls of the first floor are the original walls installed in 1938 and are in need of repair due to constant leakage. The second floor, overlooking the basketball court, is primarily used for the offices of the Armory employees. During the 1997 flood, the second floor was heavily damaged and required a total remodeling. The new architecture cut off the ladder leading to the roof making access to the tower difficult (Brady, Interview).

Conclusion

Over the course of its life, the Armory’s structure has changed dramatically, but the essence of the building has not changed. Through its residing military unit and community activities, the Armory has had and continues to have an impact on both local and national events. The history of the Armory began with the first military units to come to Marion. While participating in federal affairs such as the liberation of Bataan, the Armory also has a place in the local community.

Credits

This article was written by Jason Stone and was submitted on January 16, 2001.

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