Armories are more than mere buildings. They represent our social and military past — from dances and wedding receptions to circuses, auto shows, polio clinics, and voting, these buildings have served their communities through time. Seven of the armories are occupied presently by state-chartered militia units, while one is still occupied by the Rhode Island National Guard (Armory of Mounted Commands). The others are in many cases resuming the social part of their lives as buildings for the use of their communities (i.e., Westerly and Bristol Naval Reserve). One is home to an art museum (Warwick Kentish Artillery), while another (Rodman Hall) is used by the state university for classrooms and for its Community Planning Department. The largest (Providence, sometimes known as “Cranston Street”) is still looking for its rightful place in the state, but has the support of a number of groups, including the West Broad Street Neighborhood Association, to help it find its focus.
Rhode Island’s armories are varied in their architecture — from wood-framed neo-classical style buildings to granite and brick medieval castle-like buildings, these armories are among some of the very best of Rhode Island’s architecture (and a state well known throughout the world for its fine architecture).
The 18 historic armories of Rhode Island are located in 11 cities/towns in the state. They are (from north to south):
The Pawtucket Armory, 172 Exchange Street, Pawtucket – 1894-1895
The Armory of Mounted Commands, 1051 North Main St., Providence – 1913-14 & 1923-1925
The Providence Armory, 225 Dexter Street, Providence – 1903-1907
The Benefit Street Arsenal, 176 Benefit Street, Providence – 1839-1840
The Armory of the Pawtuxet Rangers, 59 Remington Street, Warwick – 1843
The Kentish Artillery Armory, 3259 Post Road, Warwick – 1912
The Armory of the Warren Federal Blues, 42 Baker Street, Warren – c. 1865
The Warren Artillery Armory, 11 Jefferson Street, Warren – 1842
The Bristol Naval Reserve Armory, Thames Street, Bristol – 1896
The Bristol Train of Artillery Armory, 135 State Street, Bristol – 1842
The Varnum Memorial Armory, 5 Main Street, East Greenwich – 1913
The Armory of the Kentish Guards, 1774 Armory St., East Greenwich – 1843
The Newport Armory, 365 Thames Street, Newport – 1894
The Armory of the Artillery Company of Newport, 23 Clark Street, Newport – 1835-1836
For more information on these armories, email here.
The Historic Armories of
Colonel (ret) Howard F. Brown &
Professor Roberta Mudge Humble
With a special introduction by
Lieutenant General Leon LaPorte
Commanding General, Fort Hood, Texas
The Historic Armories of Rhode Island is a pictorial view of 18 historic buildings designed for the military but often the center of community life in the towns and cities of Rhode Island. The oldest of these standing armories was built in 1835 while the youngster of this historic group was constructed in 1928. Brick and granite, wood and stone — these armories have survived through times where lesser architecture would have failed. There is strength to armories; they are masculine and practical buildings, but they are also most welcoming in their architectural authority.
Inside, photographs of the armories show a range of styles and tell of how these structures served their communities and their state through some of the most difficult years of our country. Armories have meaning for all of us. Besides their military missions to safely store arms and to provide homes for military units, Rhode Island’s armories have a close attachment to the state’s citizenry.
From dances and meetings to circuses with Tom Thumb, voting, polio clinics, car shows, State Inauguration Balls — and home to the fast break in basketball, the armories have welcomed the people of Rhode Island. These buildings are architectural treasures — with half of them on the National Register of Historic Places.
To read about and see these armories is a rare and wonderful pleasure — to know that they were there for past generations and that they will be there for future generations — to remember the importance of community, of character, and of American freedom.
Click here for more details at the Westerly Armory site.