A Brief History of the Armory Tradition
The South Carolina Army National Guard traces its origins to the colonial militia tradition that provided ongoing protection to the colonial government and its citizens beginning in 1670. That year Charles Town was first settled by the Lords Proprietors and the new colonial constitution required that “all male inhabitants and freemen of Carolina” between the ages of 17 and 60 serve in the colonial militia whenever the grand council determined such service was necessary. Almost immediately, Carolinians were called to arms to protect against the threat of Spanish attack. Later, the South Carolina Militia (as it was originally known) would be called out to quell American Indian uprisings, to put down slave rebellions, to fight for liberty in the American Revolution, to defend the new nation in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, and to protect South Carolina and the Confederacy in the American Civil War.1 Most of this service was authorized under the federal Militia Act of 1792, which required all able-bodied freemen between 18 and 45 to serve in their local militia. Troops were expected to provide their own equipment and weapons, and no federal funding was available for pay, training, or any other assistance to the local militias2 .
Because of the lack of federal funding, at the outbreak of the American Civil War, most local regiments and state militia organizations throughout the country did not have armory buildings of their own. Instead, they typically relied on rented space in often dilapidated public buildings. They sometimes cobbled together facilities at several locations—leased office space on two floors of an office building here, short-term rental of a local gymnasium for drill purposes there. Those few militia groups that did build or purchase buildings of their own usually shared them with other regiments, and the buildings these state militias built had no common architectural form among them3. Indeed, before the late 1870s, mere mention of the word “armory” to either soldier or citizen was unlikely to conjure an image of an architectural archetype in the same way that many people—at least on a regional level—imagine National Guard armories today.
It was the experiences of folks at home during the American Civil War, in fact, that would shape the call for and debate about the erection of centralized, state-run armory buildings. During America’s four-year national nightmare, non-combat related civil unrest was a surprisingly common and a harrowing experience for many Americans, especially in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Midwest. In the wake of the war, as the financial, political, and labor unrest seemed to rule the day, during the 1870s civic leaders pushed for efficient, economical, and centralized facilities that would allow state militias to assist understaffed and largely untrained local authorities when widespread violence broke out. Armory building at the beginning of this period was sporadic and most concentrated in the cities of the northeast—New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore—although some northeast cities, such as Boston, struggled to make any headway gaining public funding for such a venture. The rapidly growing cities of the Midwest—Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, and St. Louis—had no armories of any kind. Only when the devastating and remarkably violent railroad strikes of 1877 and more widespread labor unrest of the 1880s and early 1890s brought chaos to many of these cities did local and state governments begin thinking seriously about funding armory construction and relying more heavily on state militia forces to quell disorder.4
As armory construction took root throughout the United States at the end of the nineteenth century, state and federal officials reached some basic agreements about the needs these facilities would address and the general appearance of the armories. Most notably, there was a general expectation that armories would have a militarized, citadel-like appearance. To achieve this, architects employed a castellated design that relied heavily on towers, parapets, and turrets to suggest a heavily fortified facility housing highly armed troops that would protect the public in the event of riots and other disturbances.5 These castellated armory buildings were soon ubiquitous and are still found widely throughout the northern regions of the United States, where state funding was more often available during the late nineteenth century for armory construction. Few of these armories, however, were built in the south.
South Carolina owned only one armory building in 1903, in fact—a Beaufort facility dating to circa 1795 that housed the naval militia and is today listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Beaufort Historic District. The passage of the Military Act of 1903 (also known as the Dick Act, named for its sponsor, then Representative Charles W. F. Dick) revolutionized the state militia system, repealing the Militia Act of 1792 and transforming the volunteer militia forces into the National Guard. This legislation corrected many of the glaring inconsistencies and inequities that had plagued state militia forces during the Spanish-American War. Linking training activities between the US Army and the state militias, the bill also gave each state five years to conform to the organizational structure and training standards of the US Army. It was at this time that the state’s militia formally became known as the South Carolina National Guard. Since the Beaufort facility did not comply with these new standards, a new armory was built at Columbia in 1905. This South Carolina State Armory, designed by the Columbia firm of Edwards and Walter, was one of the first in the country to abandon the old castellated design for one more in keeping with the newly conceived National Guard program.6
South Carolina’s Guard units were called to service in many conflicts, large and small, during the first half of the twentieth century. In 1916, the Palmetto regiment of SCARNG, served in the Punitive Mexican Expedition to prevent Pancho Villa’s incursions into American territory. Approximately 4,000 of these state Guardsmen, who were veterans of the Pancho Villa Expedition, served in World War I. On July 25, 1917, South Carolina’s National Guard was called into Federal Service along with units from North Carolina and Tennessee. The unit was sent to Camp Sevier and began training for combat in Europe. Arriving in France in June 1918, and serving as part of the 30th Infantry Division (Old Hickory Division), South Carolina’s troops performed heroically at Verdun, Metz, Ypres, and the smashing of the Hindenburg Line.7 In postwar peacetime, the South Carolina National Guard served repeatedly in various civil conflicts, quelling strikes and calming election crowds, as well as protecting transported prisoners—many of them black—from unruly mobs. Until 1925, however, training of South Carolina’s troops largely occurred at facilities out of state, since no suitable facility existed in the state for training large numbers of soldiers. That year, however, the federal government turned over 258 acres of the old Camp Jackson near Columbia for use by the South Carolina Army National Guard (SCARNG) as a training site.8
Two events during the Depression Era—the passage of the National Guard Status Bill in 1933 and the creation of the Works Progress Administration—brought enormous changes to the structure and fortunes of South Carolina’s Guard units. The National Guard Status Bill, for example, gave Guard units dual status as both federal and state forces, allowing the Guard to always be prepared for war rather than having to undergo a draft process to serve their national government’s needs. In 1936, meanwhile, funding from the Works Progress Administration allowed South Carolina to build 38 new armories in the state. This was largely because of the tireless efforts of Adjutant General James C. Dozier to secure this new armory space, a process which provided jobs for thousands of South Carolinians. While the Guard no longer owns any of these properties, many of them continue to be used in various South Carolina towns as community centers or private businesses. A number of these WPA era armories have already been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.9 Among them are the Fort Mill Armory in York County, built circa 1938, and the Hartsville Armory in Darlington County, designed by Heyward S. Singley and built in 1939-40.10
The federal government once again called the South Carolina National Guard to action in late 1940, when mobilization and training for World War II began in earnest. Exercises and maneuvers took place not only at Fort Jackson but also on private property in sixteen counties across North and South Carolina. As troops prepared to leave for Europe and Asia, meanwhile, Governor Burnet R. Maybank authorized on March 21, 1941, the establishment of a new State Guard (the State of South Carolina Defense Force) that would take the place of the National Guard troops who were serving overseas. Poorly equipped and unpaid, these civilian defenders nevertheless took up the role previously held by SCARNG.11 South Carolina’s conventional Guard troops, meanwhile, served admirably—the 118th Infantry Regiment at Mortain and in northern France and the Rhineland, the 107th Coast Artillery Battalion in North Africa, Italy, and Sicily, and the 178th Field Artillery in six campaigns in North Africa and Italy.12
Following World War II, South Carolina’s National Guard was reorganized in October 1945 as a reserve component of the United States Army, with new ceiling strengths set as of 1946. This effectively created a state National Guard that was larger than its pre-war entity, with 12,171 Guard troops authorized—more than three times its 1941 enrollment. The first summer encampment of the newly structured South Carolina National Guard occurred in 1947 at Fort Jackson, and the improvements in equipment, pay, and clothing were noticeable and welcomed by Guard members. Other changes included a firm commitment of National Guard troops to combat readiness as first-line forces, whether at home or abroad.13
The evolution of this transformation of the National Guard’s mission is intriguing. Pre-World War II animosity between Regular Army officers and Guard troops gave way to an understanding that the insular, caste-based leadership structure of the armies of Japan and Germany had contributed directly to their ultimate demise during the war. Instead, as early as 1944, in War Department Circular No. 347, the federal government called for the creation of a “citizen-soldier army” in the years after World War II, emphasizing that “this is the type of army which President Washington proposed to the first Congress as one of the essential foundations of the new American Republic.”14
The rapid growth in National Guard troop levels following the 1947 National Defense Act and the continued reorganization of the National Guard left most Guard units across the nation struggling to find adequate facilities to house the equipment and troops associated with their operations. In South Carolina alone, at least thirty units in the state relied on public high schools, American Legion buildings, and rented facilities that the Adjutant General, James C. Dozier, deemed “not at all satisfactory.”15 In 1948, the National Guard began pushing the Adjutants General of various states to begin planning for the construction of new armories and distributed “drawings, outline specifications, and pictures of four model armories that have been prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers.”16 The intent was that these designs could be used as guidelines for any states beginning their own construction programs in advance of any federal construction programs, which had not as of yet been funded.
These standardized plans included a “Type ‘A’ One-Unit Armory,” intended for one company with a demonstration and assembly area of 120 by 75 feet; a “Type ‘B’ One-Unit Armory,” with additional classroom and administrative space and a demonstration and assembly area measuring 150 by 100 feet; a “Five Unit (Battalion-Size) Armory,” with a demonstration area of 150 by 100 feet and even more administrative and classroom space; and a “Ten-Unit Armory,” with more administrative and classroom space and a demonstration and assembly area of 200 by 100 feet.17 Additional plans distributed to the states addressed a hangar (for National Guard army liaison planes), a warehouse building, an ordnance maintenance shop building for third echelon work, and a motor vehicle storage building (MVSB). The federal design for this latter type was one story, 52 feet wide, in variable lengths of 92, 128, and 218 feet; garage doors were located at one end of the building, rather than along the long sides.18
Those states that could not afford to build new armories turned to other institutional buildings to house weapons and other equipment; some towns even relied on the generosity of local bank officers, who allowed their vaults to serve a second purpose.19 It was in this context that many of the MVSB armory buildings were built in South Carolina between 1948 and 1952.20 Desperate for vehicle and equipment shelter and garage space, but unable to afford the proposed federal designs for actual armories with demonstration spaces (which ranged from $444,000 to $1,827,000 in estimated cost), those communities who could afford to build anything with state funds used them to erect substantial brick garages for substantially less money based on designs from local architects.21 In South Carolina, Heyward S. Singley designed the vast majority of these MVSBs, using plans that varied in only the smallest of details from one location to another.
A second wave of National Guard construction began in the early 1950s, with the passage of congressional legislation in 1950, known as Public Law 783 (81st Congress) or the National Defense Facilities Act of 1950, which authorized federal assistance for new armory construction at all Guard and Reserve facilities. In the case of state Guard units, states had to provide the land, equipment, furnishings, and at least 25 percent of all construction costs, as well as bear the burden of all maintenance and operation costs on these facilities once they were built, in order to qualify for the 75 percent of matching federal funds for armory construction.22
Delays in congressional appropriations for this funding meant that construction of these new armories did not begin until 1952, but this timing nevertheless placed many of South Carolina’s communities that had recently built the MVSBs in an unfortunate position. Since many of these MVSBs were literally only a few years old, it was difficult to justify an expenditure on the new full-service armories, even though they were more modern, efficient, and functional than the MVSBs. Likewise, these communities had difficulty securing funds that were also authorized in 1950 for the expansion and repair of existing armories, since the MVSBs were so new that it was difficult to justify receiving funds for either expansion or repair to those facilities.23 Nevertheless, South Carolina began its first wave of armory construction in 1952, beginning with armories in Gaffney, Woodruff, Mullins, and York, even as construction of the MVSBs under the old construction contracts continued at other locations (most notably Conway in 1952).24 Over the next fifteen years, SCARNG built dozens of these new armories around the state, even as occasional problems with state appropriations delayed projects for a year or more.25 When such difficulties arose, planned armory projects were sometimes canceled, requiring SCARNG to reapply for federal funding on those projects once state funding was in place; occasionally, a portion of this delay could be circumvented if the State Maintenance Officer was able to apply for reinstatement of the proposed project.
During the Korean Conflict of 1950-53, the South Carolina National Guard was not fully mobilized; however several units were mobilized and furnished as replacement troops for units in Korea. Other units still at home were urged to “train hard and learn well,” since they could conceivably be called to service at any moment. Meanwhile, increasing civil defense demands—which necessitated Guard service as a result of South Carolina’s creation of a Civil Defense Agency in 1950—meant that the state’s National Guard troops were frequently strained by natural disasters as well as the potential for civil conflict as the Civil Rights Movement heated up.26
Following the Korean Conflict, which had highlighted the need for increased training and readiness among National Guard troops, the federal government began requiring National Guard forces to attend prolonged training on active Army installations. In response, many local Guard officers began instituting weekend training for their units as early as 1957, even though such weekend training did not become mandatory until 1966. In addition, the Army instructed the National Guard in October 1958 to begin focusing their training not on individual soldier skills but instead on unit training, thus placing a greater demand on local National Guard facilities.27
Likewise, military planners began restructuring their preparation strategies to reflect the new nuclear realities of the Cold War. After abandoning its “massive retaliation” policy in the late 1950s, the Eisenhower Administration began to prepare for the demands of a nuclear battlefield. Embracing a model known as the “Pentomic Division,” which was based on the idea that soldiers would now have to be able to fight threats from any direction (rather than the linear model upon which the triangular fighting strategy of the past had been based), Army and ARNG officials organized their divisions into groups of five, thus creating the potential for a five-sided battle group in the tactical theater. This transformation led to a massive reorganization of the Army National Guard’s units in 1959, creating highly mobile groupings with specialized equipment.28
In the face of these massive changes and the looming specter of another international conflict in Southeast Asia, circumstances finally forced many of South Carolina’s Guard posts to request funding for the construction of full-service armories that were far better suited to the new training and organizational requirements of the National Guard. Where earlier structures had been used to protect and store equipment, the new armories were designed to train and in some cases house National Guard troops as they prepared for a totally new form of warfare. These new armories became the center of the SCARNG community as local citizens trained for combat in theaters of war well beyond their home states, even as the need to provide civil defense and service at home continued.
SCARNG’s first armory construction phase, which ended with the completion of the Clemson facility (funded in 1962 and completed in 1964), consisted of the construction of forty new armories. Phase two was originally intended to address modernization and enlargement of the thirty-eight remaining older armories. The terminology used to describe these new armory facilities—and indeed, even the standardized templates distributed to states to assist them with planning for their new armory construction and the construction standards attendant to those templates—changed rapidly and frequently during the 1950s and early 1960s. As a result of the changes in these standards, South Carolina abandoned its Phase Two plan in 1962, instead deciding to replace all twenty of its remaining one-story armories built before 1945 with new armory buildings. By selling these old buildings, the Adjutant General believed sufficient funds could be generated to meet the state share required for construction of a new facility at each site. That year, the SC Legislature passed a law allowing for the sale of these properties and the isolation of those revenues for future armory construction.29
Decoding the shifting vision of what armory construction was supposed to look like during this period is nearly impossible, in large part because few documents survive to explain the standards, design ideas, and terminology at play. By 1952, for example, the rubric disseminated to state Adjutants General in 1948 (consisting of two different kinds of one-unit armories, a five-unit armory, and a ten-unit armory) was abandoned for a much more complex system involving one-unit, two-unit, three-unit, four-unit, five-unit, six-unit, eight-unit, and “battalion-unit” armories.30 Similarly, the template plans originally drawn up by Bail, Horton, and Associates for one- and two-unit armories in the late 1940s were abandoned in favor of new plans requested in 1951.31 These appear to have been the plans developed by Reisner and Urbahn in 1952 and 1953 for several different armory types, including Type A (a one-unit armory) and Type B (a two-unit armory). Three other armory types—Type K, developed by the Guard’s own personnel in November 1952; Type M, developed from plans for a smaller one-unit armory in Mississippi; and Type Z were also referenced in correspondence during this same period.32 It is presumed that these were then disseminated to the state Adjutants General as templates for, or suggestions of what, locally produced plans should look like; that said, state armories were most certainly designed by local architects hired for that purpose.
Standards for armory construction, consisting primarily of dimensional requirements and permitted materials in certain parts of the armory buildings, changed frequently during this period of armory building, but they were the prevailing standards by which these local architects crafted their own armory designs. The guiding National Guard publication on these standards, known colloquially by its publication number, Pamphlet 74-1, must have gone through several revisions during the period of its use (1954-1970), as surviving space criteria guidelines from 1960 demonstrate dramatic changes in standards for armory construction effective with the FY 1961 program. Sadly, the incomplete surviving documentation on these standards makes it difficult to present a systematic history of how these standards evolved over time, but research to this effect continues.
Gwen R. Rhodes, South Carolina Army National Guard (South Carolina Army National Guard, 1988), 17-35. For two much more extensive studies of armories and their construction throughout the United States than this section allows for, see Robert M. Fogelson, America’s Armories: Architecture, Society, and Public Order (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), and Dianna Everett, Historic National Guard Armories: A Brief, Illustrated Review of the Past Two Centuries (National Guard Bureau, Historical Services Division, 1994). Both histories focus primarily on armories built before 1945. Portions of this historical section and other portions of this website originally appeared in Eric W. Plaag, Historical Survey and Evaluation of 15 SCARNG Armory Complexes, South Carolina (Columbia: South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, February 2012). ↩
Michael D. Doubler, I Am the Guard: A History of the Army National Guard, 1636-2000 (Department of the Army, Pamphlet No. 130-1, 2001), 66-69. ↩
Boston’s First Corps of Cadets, for example, did exactly this, relying on the attic at Faneuil Hall, then two floors of an office building Tremont Street, while also renting gym space from MIT. See Robert M. Fogelson, America’s Armories: Architecture, Society, and Public Order (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989): 10-11. ↩
Fogelson makes a compelling argument that fear of class warfare was instrumental in loosening the purse strings and effecting the construction of armories, especially as local police forces increasingly sided with labor in those disputes. See Fogelson, 13-47. ↩
Doubler, 119-20. For more on these castellated armories, see also Andrew Waldman, “America’s Castles,” National Guard (August 2010): 40-48. ↩
On the Dick Act and the history of armories in South Carolina, see Rhodes, 35; Doubler, 141-45; and Elizabeth J. Bailey, South Carolina State Armory, National Register of Historic Places Nomination, May 1995, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, available digitally at http://www.nationalregister.sc.gov/richland/S10817740128/S10817740128.pdf ↩
Rhodes, 36-41. ↩
Rhodes, 42-43. ↩
Rhodes, 43-45. See also Christina Anderson, A Historic Resources Inventory and Survey of South Carolina Army National Guard Facilities (South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, 2001), 5. ↩
For nominations of these two armories, see Paul M. Gettys, National Guard Armory [Fort Mill], National Register of Historic Places Nomination, September 28, 1990, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, available digitally at http://www.nationalregister.sc.gov/york/S10817746039/S10817746039.pdf, J. Tracy Power and Andrew W. Chandler, Hartsville Armory, National Register of Historic Places Nomination, June 28, 1994, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, available digitally at http://www.nationalregister.sc.gov/darlington/S10817716040/S10817716040.pdf. ↩
Rhodes, 46-47. ↩
Rhodes, 48-49. ↩
Rhodes, 51. See also Michael D. Doubler, The National Guard and Reserve: A Reference Handbook (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008), 61. ↩
Quoted in Michael D. Doubler, I Am the Guard: A History of the Army National Guard, 1636-2000 (Department of the Army, Pamphlet No. 13-1, 2001), 223. ↩
James C. Dozier, “Adjutant General’s Report,” October 1, 1948, in Report of the Adjutant General of the State of South Carolina (Columbia (?): Joint Committee on Printing, General Assembly of South Carolina, 1948), 6-7. ↩
“Letting Out the Seams,” National Guardsman 2:3 (March 1948): 16-17. ↩
“Letting Out,” 16-17. ↩
“Our Supplies, Vehicles, Need Housing, Too,” National Guardsman 2:5 (May 1948): 22. ↩
Doubler, I Am, 230. ↩
Anderson, 21. ↩
To provide some context on cost, in 1947-48, Frank D. Pinckney, the State Maintenance Officer, reported that he was able to build six MVSBs throughout the state for under $150,000. See Frank D. Pinckney to General James C. Dozier, September 21, 1948, reprinted in Report of the Adjutant General of the State of South Carolina (Columbia (?): Joint Committee on Printing, General Assembly of South Carolina, 1948), 18-20. ↩
Doubler, I Am, 230, and Annual Report of the Chief, National Guard Bureau, Fiscal Year Ending 30 June 1951 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1952), 18-19. ↩
Doubler, I Am, 230. ↩
James C. Dozier, “Adjutant General’s Report,” July 1, 1953, in Report of the Adjutant General of the State of South Carolina (Columbia (?): State Budget and Control Board, 1953). ↩
Under the armory construction program, federal funding was not provided until state legislators had appropriated their share of the construction cost. One such delay occurred in 1956. See Frank D. Pinckney to James C. Dozier, August 15, 1956, reprinted in Report of the Adjutant General of the State of South Carolina (Columbia (?): State Budget and Control Board, 1956), 22-24. On the consequences of funding delays and the cancellation of individual armory projects, see Frank D. Pinckney to James C. Dozier, July 22, 1957, reprinted in Report of the Adjutant General of the State of South Carolina (Columbia (?): State Budget and Control Board, 1957), 20-22. ↩
Rhodes, 53-54. ↩
Doubler, I Am, 239-40. ↩
See Rhodes, 55, and Doubler, I Am, 244. ↩
Frank D. Pinckney, “Adjutant General’s Report,” in Report of the Adjutant General of the State of South Carolina (Columbia (?): State Budget and Control Board, 1962), 10-11. ↩
See, for example, “Recapitulation, Fiscal Year 1952 Armory Construction Program,” November 1, 1951, Folder 633 General, Army-NGB TAFFS, 1951, RG 168, NARA II. ↩
Raymond M. Fleming to Chief of Engineers, December 18, 1951, Folder 633 General, Army-NGB TAFFS, 1951, RG 168, NARA II. The plans by Bail, Horton, and Associates have not been located. ↩
One Types A and B, see R. R. Sedillo to Adjutants General, May 19, 1953, Folder 633, General, Box 1459, Army-NGB Decimal File, 1953, NARA II. On Type K, see R. R. Sedillo, “Armory Type K Schematic,” November 1, 1952, Folder 633, General, Box 1459, Army-NGB Decimal File, 1953, NARA II. On Type M, see R. R. Sedillo to Adjutants General, March 3, 1953, Folder 633, General, Box 1459, Army-NGB Decimal File, 1953, NARA II. On Type Z, see R. R. Sedillo to Adjutants General, January 1, 1953, Folder 633, General, Box 1459, Army-NGB Decimal File, 1953, NARA II. ↩