Built St. Louis > > Crumbling Landmarks || Midtown > > The Armory

2003 - the east entrance. Photo by Kevin Kieffer.

2011 - the east entrance.

Armory of the 138th Infantry, Missouri National Guard
Architect: -

Buried by Highway 40, accessible only by the most roundabout of fashions, huge and hulking, seemingly vacant yet still in use - the St. Louis National Guard Armory Building is an intriguing enigma.

The building's cornerstones proclaim its origins; it was built under the aegis of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works as Project No. 8609. No architect is named, but William C.E. Becker is listed as "Engineer, Bridsges and Buildings". Inside it featured a massive main gymnasium, a 25 meter pool, and many other sporting and athletic facilities.

Clad primarily in brown brick with carved limestone detailing and ornament, the building's massing is Gothic, with a pair of castle-like turrets guarding the entrance, but it also sports a strong Art Deco influence in its massing and detailing, with dozens of vertical piers demarcating its bays. The Great Seal of the State of Missouri is rendered in colorful terra cotta over the main entry; carved limestone eagles mark the corner bays. The main entrance once faced a major thorougfare in Market Street, but in the 1960s the coming of Highway 40's twisting double decks relegated the entry to eternal shadow.

In addition to its primary military duties, the building was a major gathering place fo rmany years. Stories and legends abound; it hosted a variety of sporting events and facilities. Tennis great Jimmy Connors honed his skills on the wood floors within. The building hosted concerts, including a 1968 Grateful Dead show. It continued in use as a sports facility into the 2000s, slowly declining.

The building's current uses are limited and murky. Cars still use the basement parking garage, even after the demolition of the adjacent Macy's warehouse. But the building is tattered looking and tired, with many dirty, broken and boarded up windows. Surrounded by industrial sites and the highway, it awaits rediscovery and renovation.


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