The Militia Act of 1903, also known as the Dick Act, was federal legislation that mandated greater oversight of National Guard units by the regular army. As part of the military reforms arising from the act, the federal government had provided the Connecticut National Guard with an artillery battery, subject to inspection by regular army officers to ensure both performance and proper care for government property. In 1909 the War Department was dissatisfied with a recent inspection and demanded that the state erect an armory to house the equipment. Following negotiations, in 1911 the state General Assembly approved a new armory to be built in Branford to house Battery A of the field artillery. Completed in 1913, the armory was designed by the architectural firm of Palmer and Townsend, which had just completed the Meriden Armory. Located at 87 Montowese Street, the armory has been updated at different times and housed various National Guard units over the years (the original field artillery moved out in the 1920s). Branford Armory & OMS is now also home to the 2nd Company Governor’s Foot Guard, which moved out of its New Haven armory in 2009. Controversy arose in 2011 when the Branford Armory Tank (actually a Marine armored personnel carrier), placed on the front lawn in the 1970s as a memorial by Korean War veterans, was removed by the Guard without warning as part of an effort to restore historical military equipment for display at Camp Niantic. Branford veterans and citizens successfully lobbied to have the tank returned. For more information about the Branford Armory, see Built to Serve: Connecticut’s National Guard Armories 1865-1940 (2003), by Geoffrey L. Rossano & Mary M. Donohue, pages 58-61.
The former National Guard Armory at 511 Main Street in West Haven was built in 1932-1933 and remained an active military facility through the late 1970s. Designed by the architectural firm of Fletcher & Thompson, it is an Art Deco structure–the first armory building in Connecticut to break with the earlier castellated Military Gothic style. The armory was later converted into apartment units.
A chapter (called a “tribe”) of the Improved Order of Red Men was established in Bristol in 1890. The organization constructed a three-story brick meeting hall at 43 Prospect Street in Bristol in 1911. Designed by Walter Crabtree and built by B.H. Hubbard Co. of New Britain, the Redmen’s Hall had a state armory on the first floor and a meeting hall on an upper floor. Many town events were held in the hall in the early years of the twentieth century. In 1940 the building was renovated to become a movie theater called the Carberry Theater. The building is now owned by the Christian Fellowship Center.
At the corner of Arch Street and Grand Street in New Britain stands the old New Britain Armory, built in 1886 and designed by Robert Wakeman Hill of Waterbury. He used the same design for the armory in Norwalk. By 1986, when a notice in the New London Day announced that this former state armory was for sale by public bid, the building had left in a state of disrepair for a number of years. Most noticeably, it had lost its original domed top above the central tower. In 1992, the Greater Hartford Architecture Conservancy took control of the building and renovated it to become Armory Court (10 Grand Street), which contains low income housing.
At Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton is a powder magazine. It was built in 1843 and served the fort‘s nineteenth-century river battery. The battery was paired with a larger one across the Thames River at Fort Trumbull.
In 1830, Officers’ Quarters and Barracks for enlisted men were constructed of stone at Fort Trumbull in New London. A wooden extension to the building, erected in the 1840s, was replaced by a new stone section in 2000. From 1910, Fort Trumbull was used as the training school of the Revenue Cutter Service and then as the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (the Coast Guard was formed in 1915 with the merger of the Life Saving Service and Revenue Cutter Service). The barracks accommodated two cadets to a room and was later converted into the Academy’s library. After the Coast Guard Academy moved in 1932, the building was used primarily as offices.
The imposing Meriden Armory on East Main Street was built in 1908. Once home to a National Guard unit, the Armory hosted dances and sporting events, including Meriden native Max E. Muravnick‘s first professional boxing match. The National Guard closed the Armory in 1998 and sold it to a private developer. The building has remained closed and is difficult to market due to its deteriorating condition and lack of parking.