Northfield’s Armory

NFLD Armory

A postcard of the Northhfield Armory.
Circa 1920.

A few weeks ago, the City of Northfield was informed that its 1915 Armory might be for sale soon. I thought it was time to do a little research on the building and here is some of what I found.

The Northfield Armory was built in 1915 after a long campaign by the local community. The building is a Gothic Revival brick and stone building. The building sits just outside of Northfield’s Nationally Registered Historic District.

Building Architecture
It is a two-story building with a three bay garage addition off its southern corner. The building has a concrete foundation and brick masonry walls. The building has a three bay symmetrical face that features rectangular corner towers flanking the central entry way. Above the central entrance there is a name plate with the word “ARMORY” inscribed on it.

According to a Minnesota Historical Society historic architecture inventory, the significance of the building is:
The physical fabric of the Northfield Armory remains faithful to its original design. It is perhaps the plainest of the Early Period armories constructed between 1911 and 1917 and reflects a restrained, three bay castellated design that became typical of Minnesota armories constructed during the 1920s.
According to the inventory, the building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places Registry.

Building Origination/Dedication
According to a Jan. 15, 1915 Northfield News article, the City will have a fine new armory that it has been searching for. The Northfield business community had raised $2,435.50 towards bringing the new Armory to Northfield. The Armory was to be the home to Company D of the National Guard. Many service clubs held fundraisers to help raise the additional money needed. It was also noted that many of the citizens had hoped for a public restroom in the building, but because of budget restrictions this was not going to happen. However, at the same time plans for a public restroom in the YMCA (currently home of the Northfield Arts Guild) were being developed.

Armory Inside

Inside the Northfield Armory during the 1915 Rice County Fair.

The City of Northfield was to have no obligation for maintenance of the building. But if the City Council were to pass a resolution for maintenance the state would match pledge up to $250. The remaining balance for the maintenance would come from rentals of the building for public events.

In May of 1915 it was reported that the excavation for the foundation had begun and that the dirt had been hauled to the Rice County Fairgrounds, which at the time was held in Northfield. The plan was to have the building constructed by October, but the contractor was hoping to have the building finished much earlier. He must of succeed because by the Rice County Fair in 1915 (September 23-25) they had housed their exhibits in the newly finished armory.

The finished building consisted of a, company library and reading room, ladies retiring room when the hall is rented—with a toilet, and check room, ticket office and an officer’s room. The basement was to be divided up into quartermaster’s room, locker room, shower baths, a kitchen and dining room, indoor riffle range and a bowling alley. The bowling alley was never built.

When the building was dedicated on December 3, 1915, Minnesota Governor Winfield S. Hammond was the keynote presenter, along with other local politicians, and members of the state militia were also present.

Many of the people in attendance admired the outside of the building. However, the indoor riffle range drew the most attention. It was a 50 foot range, rather than the typical 200 foot range most armories had. But users of the range would get the same quality as the 200 foot range by using smaller bullets.

The Northfield Armory was built to fulfill a need in the community it has a long history in Northfield. Image the stories it could tell about the development of Northfield.

Southern independence ends at Appomattox Courthouse

Civil War PCDThe Northfield Historical Society is pleased to offer “Southern independence ends at Appomattox Courthouse,” a presentation by Jim Stark on Thursday, February 19, 6:30 p.m. at the Northfield Historical Society in downtown Northfield. The event is free and open to the public.

Stark, a former president of the Northfield and Rice County historical societies, will cover Grant’s laying siege to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg, Virginia, in 1864-65. He will also explore Gen. Sherman’s March to the Sea and his movements north into South Carolina and into the birthplace of secession.

With the Confederate government fleeing south to North Carolina, the south was desperately searching for a miracle to avoid being remembered as a proverbial “Lost Cause.” Stark also will discuss how Confederate President Davis tried to lift the declining morale of the southern people during the final stages of the war.

One week left!

DiaryYou have one week left to view the exhibit In their Own Words; Diaries from the Collection. It will be taken down on February 13th, while NHS staff prepares for the upcoming reconfigure of the bank raid exhibit and the new rotating exhibit, 40/40.  The 40/40 exhibit will showcase items from the NHS collection that have not been on display previously.

Hops Grapes and History

JaredThe Grand Event Center and the Northfield Historical Society will host its third annual Hops, Grapes, and History fundraiser March 7 at 7 p.m. at the Grand. The event will feature award-winning illusionist and entertainer Jared Sherlock.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door.

The evening will begin with a beer and wine tasting until 8:00 p.m. The tasting will feature a hand-selected variety of Minnesota craft beers and wines. A special bonus this year will be a whiskey tasting by Northfield distillery Loon Liquors.

A raffle will give attendees the opportunity to win multiple prizes.

The evening culminates with a blend of modern magic with comedy and friendly audience interaction by illusionist Jared Sherlock.

“Feedback from past years indicates that the tastings have run a bit long, so we’ve shortened that part,” says Hayes Scriven, executive director of NHS. “We also are very excited to have Loon Liquors at the tasting. They are developing a great product and this is an ideal way to add another local connection to the event.

Scriven also notes the difference in entertainment. “In Northfield you can hear great music almost every night, but how often can you see a great variety act?” he asks. “Jared is funny, engaging, and fits the bill perfectly.”

Doors open at 7:00 p.m. tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door.  Tickets can be purchased online at 

Back to Normal Hours!

After being closed for about a week, we are back to our normal business hours.

A big thank you to Rod and his crew from Buff and Coat for donating this rework of our floors!

Thank you!

NHS Closed January 19-22

We will be closed January 19-22.  We are having our floors worked on.  Thank you for our patience.  If you have questions feel free to call 507-645-9268.

Book Signing and Presentation, January 15

HH CoverSusan Hvistendahl will do a book signing and presentation of her new book, Historic Happenings, at the Northfield Historical Society, 408 Division Street, on Thursday, January 15, starting at 6:30 pm. The book includes stories about the people, businesses and events that have made Northfield the special place it is today. These selected columns were originally published in The Entertainment Guide, which partnered with the Northfield Historical Society to publish the book in December.

There are inspiring stories of early merchant Hiram Scriver and John North, who founded the town in 1855 and soon established the Lyceum as a library, reading room and place for settlers to debate issues of the day. North’s ties to Abraham Lincoln are given, along with how North’s temperance policies led to an ax-wielding episode in 1858.
Tales of the Archer House (which opened in 1877), the 1899 openings of both the Ware Auditorium (now the Grand Event Center) and the Odd Fellows building (at the site of Three Links today) are included. The beloved popcorn wagon, established by Vera Johansen, has been a familiar sight on Bridge Square since 1979. Other events covered in the book are the speech General Dwight David Eisenhower gave to 10,000 at Laird Stadium in 1952 just before he was elected President, the tragic day in 1915 when lions attacked their trainer during a carnival, the 1997 Northfield Raiders’ state football championship and, of course, the infamous day of “Robbery & Murder!” on Sept. 7, 1876, when the James-Younger gang tried to rob First National Bank but met its match.

Above all, Hvistendahl commemorates the people of Northfield: Northfield News writer and editor Maggie Lee, town icons Sid and Dan Freeman, performers Marilyn Sellars and Johnny Western, Laura Baker with her school for people with developmental disabilities, Northfield High choral director Yosh Murakami, Wayne Eddy of KYMN, and Celtic music wizard Laura MacKenzie. And three residents who were the Jeopardy! answer to the question, “Who are Northfield’s Quiz Show Aces?”—Hillemann, Crippen and Soule.

The program on Jan. 15 will feature ballads written in honor of Maggie Lee and Wayne Eddy, led by lyricist Scott Richardson, with Randall Ferguson on guitar. The talents of Laura MacKenzie will also be showcased, with a special song for the late Dan Freeman. Refreshments will be provided.