Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Armory

The National Guard Armory was erected in 1937. It went into service in 1939 as the Headquarters of Saint Louis' own 138th Infantry.

The 138th Infantry was formed in 1832. It consisted of a volunteer militia company, then called the Saint Louis Grays. Eventually, the various local companies would join to form a regiment of the Saint Louis Militia. The new militia saw combat in the Mexican war of 1846. They were joined by other units, notably the Native American Rangers, Missouri Fusiliers and Boon Guards. They fought together in the battles of New Mexico and Chihuaha. The St Louis Grays would eventually grow large enough in size to become the 1st Battalion of the Regiment. The 1st Regiment would see action in the Confederate Army in the Civil war and was in attendance at the Battles of Shiloh, Mississippi River, Vicksburg, Atlanta, Nashville, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama (1864-1865). The regimemnt would be later called into service for the Spanish-American war (though they didn't leave the U.S.) as well as the First World War.

On October 1, 1917, the unit became the 138th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Division. The newly named 138th would go on to see heavy action in the Meuse-Argonne and Alsace and Loraine campaigns. The 138th would receive thirteen battles streamers for their action in Mexico, the Civil War and both World Wars. In 1974, the 138th was redesignated and shifted around for the next several decades before being deactivated in 2005.

Armories were formed out of the necessity for volunteer militias as a place to store their equipment. By the 1920's, approximately five-sixth of America's military strength consisted of the National Guard, Army Reserve and volunteer militias. By the 2000's, National Guard Units owned more than three thousand armory buildings.

This building was used, like the other armories, for the purpose of storing ammunition and equipment as well as training soldiers. It remained in use from the time of its initial entry into service in 1939 up until some time in the mid 1960's. The below-ground parking garage housed tanks and other heavy equipment during this time. The building was operated by the 138th as late as 1963 and it is unclear exactly when it was closed by the Guard, but it is clear that The Armory was used as a concert venue as early as 1968, when the Grateful Dead performed here. Since then, it was home to an indoor sporting arena and subsequently used by various local schools in need of indoor facilities. It has been abandoned from that use and has been deteriorating ever since, although some portions are still in use for storage and other functions.

Source(s): 1,2

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