State Fair Commission Considers Hinds Armory’s Fate

According to a press release from the Mississippi Heritage Trust:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
David Preziosi, Executive Director, Mississippi Heritage Trust
601-354-0200 david@mississippiheritage.com

FUTURE OF HINDS COUNTY ARMORY

For over fifty years the Hinds County Armory in Jackson was a pivotal training center for the Mississippi National Guard and served as a mobilization point for men going off to World War II. The two-story brick Armory was completed in 1927 and appears to have been one of only a few buildings in the state to be built as an armory in the early part of the 20th century. It is the oldest surviving building in the state related to military training and preparation for World War II representing Mississippi’s contribution to the mobilization for WWII.

Some of the National Guard units using the Hinds County Armory in 1940, on the eve of mobilization for World War II were: Headquarters, 106th Engineer Regiment; Company A, 106th Engineers; Company B, 155th Infantry; Company C, 155th Infantry; Medical Detachment, 106th Engineers; and Medical Detachment, 155th Infantry. The 106th Engineer Regiment was inducted into federal service on November 25, 1940, for service in World War II. The 155th Infantry Regiment entered federal service about the same time.

Architecturally, the building is a rare secular example of Gothic Revival architecture of the 1920s designed by architect Frank P. Gates. During this period, the Gothic Style was quite popular for churches, and was occasionally used for schools, but its use for other types of buildings such as the Armory was quite unusual. The building has a massive tower with a pyramidal roof and four pyramidal pinnacles centered on the main façade. The main entrance to the building features a large Gothic arched opening with concrete surround. Corner pilasters on all four corners of the building are capped with pyramidal pinnacles, and centered on each side façade is a smaller, dual-pinnacled tower with an arched door opening. Much if not all of the exterior architectural detailing remains intact including the cast medallion shields at each entry and the original steel windows. The interior features a large drill hall with fixed bleachers on three sides and a small stage. The architecture of the Armory appears to evoke the style of a medieval castle, or perhaps a sense of the great military institutions such as West Point and Virginia Military Institute. Due to its historic importance and outstanding architectural style and integrity the Armory building was designated as a Mississippi Landmark in 1986 and was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

The Armory was in use until the 1979 Easter Flood damaged the building. After the flood the Guard gave the building to Hinds County. At that point the building was renovated to some degree back to its original layout. The building was then used for various events such as concerts, dances, wrestling and similar functions. The building was closed in the 1990s and has not been used since. Since then the building has deteriorated, including holes in the roof which have caused damage to the interior. In 2009, the Armory was placed on the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places list due to its deteriorating condition and its significance as one of the state’s finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture and one of the few secular buildings employing the style.

The Mississippi State Fair Commission is responsible for the building and has recently been investigating the possible stabilization and/or rehabilitation of the building. The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has offered the Fair Commission some emergency stabilization money to save this important historic landmark by putting a new roof on the building and making the building weather tight to prevent deterioration until a full rehabilitation can take place. A recent study by the preservation architectural firm of Belinda Stewart Architects, P.A. has determined that building is structurally sound and feasible to rehabilitate. The State Fair Commission will decide whether or not to accept the grant money at their commission meeting on Tuesday July 24th. The meeting will be held at 10:00 at the Agriculture Department Office on Jefferson Street.

As the state of Mississippi increasingly emphasizes our cultural heritage as an economic development tool the preservation of cultural heritage assets, such as the Armory, is critical. The Armory and its history are what help give the Mississippi State Fair grounds a distinctive identity that distinguishes it from other state fair grounds throughout the country. For too long Mississippi has been remiss in recognizing the importance of our history and heritage in American History. In recent years we have come to recognize the significance of our history and the value of our historic sites to both Mississippians and visitors. The Armory is one such irreplaceable site and to lose it would be to lose a valuable asset for Mississippi.

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Categories: Demolition/Abandonment, Historic Preservation, Jackson, Mississippi Heritage Trust, Renovation Projects

3 replies

  1. Any word on the results of the meeting?

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  2. I heard from MHT today that the Fair Commission voted to accept the grant from MDAH. They said that two tv stations and Supertalk radio were there, so maybe we’ll have a story or two to link to tomorrow. I think the grant was in the $600,000 range so it wasn’t and insignificant amount. Good news and I have hope for this building at long last!

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  1. MissPres News Roundup 7-30-2012 « Preservation in Mississippi

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