Olympia Armory was built during the Great Depression in a Federal Government-sponsored program, in 1936 to 1937. The Art Deco brick building with parapet end walls and decorative brickwork was one of 24 armories built in the state by this program. Before this time, the state had only two armories, one from 1905 and one from 1776! Olympia Armory, locally significant for its architecture, was listed in the National Register in 1995. The armory is near two former textile mill villages, Olympia and Granby. It once served as the gymnasium for the nearby Olympia School until the school built its own gym. The building currently houses offices of the South Carolina State Guard.
Backstory and Context
Olympia Armory was constructed in 1936 to 1937 as a Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. Although the address is in the 500's block of Granby Lane, the building is located on the north side of Granby Lane, opposite a railroad spur line, east of Granby's intersection with Whitney Street.
The rectangular structure features a barrel vaulted roof, brick parapet end walls, and intricate brick details. The red brick building exhibits Art Deco or Moderne architectural details in its corbelled pilasters and window surrounds, and the triple step-down of the parapet. It is one of twenty-four armories in the state from this time period, under the command of Brigadier General James C. Dozier. Before this time, the state only contained two armories - one on Assembly Street in Columbia dating to 1905 and one in Beaufort from 1776! Rented spaces had housed dozens of National Guard units in South Carolina until the armories were constructed.
Since the new WPA armories contained an interior open space of at least 75 by 100 feet, they were popular additions to local communities. Situated between two textile mill villages, Olympia and Granby, the armory hosted local sporting events, theatrical performances, and civic meetings. The local drum and bugle corp practiced at the armory. The nearby Olympia School utilized the armory as its gymnasium until one could be built for the school.
Olympia Armory was listed in the National Register in 1995 as an example of Art Deco and Moderne architecture for armories of the era.
The building currently houses offices of the South Carolina State Guard, an organization that has been around since 1670 as the Charleston Militia. The State Guardsmen are volunteers who protect from natural and man-made disasters, like Hurricane Hugo and the Great Flood of 2015. The army brigade is part of the South Carolina military department and reports to the Governor of South Carolina.
Blake, John T.. NRHP Nomination form for Olympia Armory. Washington, DC. National Park Service, 1994.
Govserv.org. S.C. State Guard, 551 Granby Ln, Columbia, SC, S.C. State Guard (SCSG). July 13th 2019. Accessed December 18th 2019. https://www.govserv.org/US/Columbia/143445769020854/S.C.-State-Guard#hours.
SC Military Dept.. About - SC State Guard, SC State Guard blog. Accessed December 15th 2019. http://sg.sc.gov/index.php/about/.