Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Lodi Armory
Lodi Army soon after copletion by the Works Prograss Administration
Extract, Final Inventory and Evaluation of National Register of Historic Places Eligibility of California Army National Guard Armories, Sacramento District US Army Corps of Engineers (2002)

Coinciding with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, the Central Pacific Railroad both constructed and acquired a number of rail routes throughout California. During the initial phases of the planned route through the Central Valley, the Central Pacific Railroad opted to bypass the established town of Woodbridge in favor of a Mokelumne River crossing 3 miles to the east. Although the town of Woodbridge, laid out in 1859, seemed likely to receive a station, the river crossing at that location was prone to seasonal flooding and was therefore considered a high risk for a train crossing. Capitalizing on the alternative route chosen by Central Pacific, a group of four landowners, Ezekiel Lawrence, A. T. Ayers, John Magley, and Rueben Wardrobe, petitioned the railroad to construct a station on their land. The men offered the railroad a reservation of 12 acres of land in addition to alternate blocks of land throughout the townsite. The reservation, combined with the alternate blocks, totaled approximately 160 acres of agricultural land in all (Hillman and Covello 1985).

The railroad subsequently accepted the offer of the four men, and the town plat was adopted by 1869. The new town, originally named Mokelumne, was given the name Lodi in 1873 to avoid identity confusion with foothill gold mining towns. As land speculation in the area increased during the 1880s, subdivisions materialized and continued after Lodi was officially incorporated in 1906 (Hicks 1954).

The basis for Lodi's economy has historically been in agriculture. Following a significant depression in the 1890s, few wheat farmers of the time could afford to plant new crops that would not produce for a number of years, and many instead put their farms up for sale or lost them in foreclosures to the bank. Consequently, land became available for a low price and a population of German settlers from the Dakotas moved into the area. By mixing additional row crops between the vine rows, these new settlers were able to sustain until the more lucrative grapevines began producing. The preferred grape of the period was the Tokay grape because it served well as both a wine or table grape. The Tokay grape also had the added advantage of shipping well to eastern markets that had been opened up with the construction of the transcontinental railroad. As the grapevines and fruit trees matured following the turn of the century, a number of packinghouses were established in the Lodi area to help process the increased supply. These new packinghouses included the Earl Fruit Company, the Mason Fruit Company, and the California Fruit Exchange (Kennedy 1994).

The building was originally constructed in the 1930s by the City of Lodi under the WPA at a cost of $86,000 (Woodbridge Middle School 137). The building was acquired by the National Guard from the City of Lodi by deed dated October 4, 1950, along with 1.75 acres of land (California Army National Guard 1962). Plans for the acquisition were approved by the Public Works Board on April 5, 1950 with the intent to remodel the building "to suit California National Guard requirements" (California Army National Guard 1950). The remodeling was completed on July 29, 1953, bringing the total cost of the building to $141,905 (California Army National Guard 1962).

In 1927, 1,200 inmates at Folsom prison staged a riot and attempted an outbreak. Ten Guard units were called out to assist local peacekeepers, including the 143rd Field Artillery from Lodi. The Lodi unit of the 183rd Field Artillery was called into federal service for World War II on March 3, 1941.


The Lodi armory is located on the west side of Washington Street, north of East Lockford Street. Located across the road from the armory is a contemporary V.F.W. building, with some older light industrial buildings behind the armory vehicle lot. The Lodi armory was constructed no earlier than 1935 by the City of Lodi. Unlike the standardized armories that were built after the 1940s, the Lodi armory exhibits a unique plan and form (Figure 4). The overall form of the Lodi armory is a large, single-story, side-gabled assembly hall with attached single-story subordinate wings on all elevations but the facade. The Lodi armory has a fairly shallow setback from the street giving a low, wide, robust overall impression of the building. The primary form of the armory is the central, two-story rectangular assembly hall with nine structural bays and a projecting central entry. Decorative features and architectural refinements such as overhanging eaves, exposed rafters, side-gabled roof, buttresses, and slightly arched entry are evocative of the Spanish Revival style of architecture popular in California in the 1930s.

The assembly hall and the associated subordinate wings are constructed by board-formed reinforced concrete, set on a continuous concrete footing. The assembly hall has a medium-low- pitched side-gabled roof with overhanging eaves and exposed rafters. Building plans indicate the roof was originally covered by rounded roof tiles that have since been replaced with asphaltic shingles. The projecting entrance is covered by a medium-low-pitched shed roof extending from the primary roof. The entry houses a slightly arched set of three steel-frame replacement pedestrian doors, each with a tempered transom light. Building plans indicate the original entry doors were a wooden plank-formed, slightly arched pair of doors with metal strap hinges. The entry course is a wide poured-concrete walkway that is scored into blocks and leads from the street and sidewalk.

The flooring of the northernmost bay inside the assembly hall is poured concrete, and the remainder of the interior is narrow wood parquet arranged in a square pattern. Fenestration on the assembly hall includes a ribbon of steel-frame multi-light windows in the upper portion of the east elevation, four large steel-frame multi-light windows on the west elevation between the buttresses, and steel pedestrian doors on the western entry and on the eastern connection to the vehicle yard. There are approximately 10 interior rooms that include storage, locker, office, class, and orderly rooms. The rooms are accessed by a variety of wooden and steel pedestrian doors spaced across the interior elevations.

The three subordinate wings attached to the assembly hall on all but the entry facade are constructed of board-formed concrete, set on a continuous concrete footing, covered by a contiguous wood-framed medium-low-pitched shed roof. The shed roof is covered with the same asphaltic shingles as the primary roof, and the exposed rafters and overhanging eaves are similar to those of the assembly hall. The original designated garage area that is the single-story addition of the northern elevation was initially a linear series of five bays that have since been filled in by cinder blocks. Located at the northeastern corner of the building is a metal roll-up vehicle door that allows access from the vehicle yard into the assembly hall via the garage wing. The numerous windows of all the subordinate wings along the northern, eastern, and southern elevations are a disharmonious series of paired- and single-window arrangements of varying size and combinations.

The rear yard includes the MVSB building, a large rectangular single-story structure that has a medium-pitched side-gabled roof that is flush with all the concrete elevations. In addition to the MVSB building, the gated vehicle yard encloses a variety of Army trucks, metal storage containers, and other miscellaneous equipment. The grounds of the armory outside of the vehicle yard include simple lawns with some small sparsely scattered shrubs along the base of the facade and southern elevations. With the exception of some of the failing interior acoustic ceiling tiles in the assembly hall and exfoliating paint across the base of some of the exterior elevations, the Lodi armory is in good condition.


The Lodi armory meets the definition for a significant resource type under Criterion A for its association with World War II, and under Criterion C, for its association with the WPA armories period of construction and Spanish Revival style of architecture. The armory retains its integrity and therefore is eligible for listing in the NRHP.

Acquired in 1950 by the Guard, the Lodi armory is the only pre-World War II armory currently under Guard jurisdiction that was not originally built by the Guard. The City of Lodi used WPA funds and programs to build an armory to serve as home to the 183rd Field Artillery of the Guard in the 1930s and 1940s. The mobilization for World War II involved nearly all Guard units in California, presenting one of the few opportunities that the California Guard has had to fulfill its mission as a reserve force for the regular Army. The Lodi unit was called into federal service for World War II on March 3, 1941. This association with the Guard's participation in World War II qualifies the armory as a significant property under Criterion A.

In the early 1930s, the City of Lodi participated in the WPA program to secure an armory for the community. The designers employed the Spanish Revival philosophies that were popular during that period to reflect the authority, importance, and pride of the Guard presence within the community. The armory's dual flooring materials in the assembly hall demonstrate the dual purpose of the building as a community center (wood floors for dances) and as a military facility (concrete floors for storage of heavy equipment). The armory qualifies as a significant resource under Criterion C as one of the 1930s-era armories built under the WPA program and as a good example of the Spanish Revival style applied to an armory building. The armory retains its integrity of location, setting, design, feeling, and association. The red tile roof has been replaced with composite shingle roofing. However, the form of the roof remains in tact, as do other striking visual features such as the buttresses, the arched projecting entry bay, and the original multi-light windows on the facade. The building is still easily recognized as a pre-war armory with Spanish Revival design influences and thus retains its integrity overall.

Lodi Armory circa 2014
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Updated 8 February 2016