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.
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.
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.
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.