Old West Palm Beach National Guard Armory
Now home to the Armory Art Center, the Old West Palm Beach National Guard Armory was built in 1939 and is significant for its military history, design, association with the Works Progress Administration (one of the federal agencies of "New Deal" program of the 1930s), and role as a community arts center. As for design, the building is a good example of Moderne architecture. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The Armory Art Center opened in 1987.
Backstory and Context
By 1930, the majority of national guard facilities in Florida were in poor condition. To remedy this situation, the Florida National Guard requested funds from the WPA to build new armories (local communities had to contribute money as well). This armory was among those that were built as a result of this effort. It cost around $56,000 to build and housed Company C of the 124th Infantry. Like all WPA projects, its construction provided jobs to local workers.
During WWII, the Florida National Guard was mobilized for the war. A new military organization called the Florida Defense Force (FDF) was established to temporarily replace the National Guard, which was deployed overseas. Here in West Palm Beach, a military unit—Company B, 8th Battalion of the Florida Defense Force (another source says Company E, 7th Battalion)—of the FDF was created and headquartered at the armory. It participated in a variety of civil defense operations in the area, which included coordinating with local residents in defensive preparations. The FDF was disbanded after the war and a new local unit of the National Guard was organized in 1947.
The National Guard occupied the armory until 1981. By then the building had deteriorated significantly and was in serious need to renovation. It remained vacant for the next several years. Fortunately, a local philanthropist and his wife heard about an art school that had just closed and donated funds to restore the old building to create a new space for art education. The Art Center opened in 1987 and has remained an important local arts hub ever since.
"The Armory Art Center Story." Armory Art Center. Accessed April 29, 2020. https://www.armoryart.org/history-of-the-armory.
"Civil Defense: Florida Defense Force." Armory Art Center. Accessed April 29, 2020. http://www.pbchistoryonline.org/page/florida-defense-force.
Taylor, Tulie W. "Old West Palm Beach National Guard Armory." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. June 11, 1992. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/12c0f0b7-a7c7-45c5-856e-669cc36a1043.
Armory Art Center