Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Pittsburg Armory
Pittsburg Armory circa March 2015 (Google)
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)

The town of Pittsburg is located on the historic Los Medanos Rancho in Contra Costa County. Colonel J. D. Stevenson purchased the 8,800-acre rancho from Jose Antonio Mesa and Jose Miguel Mesa following the United States' victory in the war with Mexico. Soon after, Stevenson began planning his new community with the assistance of Army Lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman. The town was initially named New York Landing and financially thrived on the fishing and canning industries. The location of the town was situated at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers (Pittsburg Historical Society 1962).

In the 1850s and 1860s, settlers discovered coal in the hills south of town and the community became known as "Black Diamond." Coal mining rapidly became one of the most important industries in Contra Costa County, and resulted in four new towns and adjacent mines: Somersville, Nortonville, Antioch, and Black Diamond. Following the discovery of superior quality coal in Oregon and Washington, the local mines reduced production and were all officially closed by 1902.

The decline of the coal mining industry significantly affected the small town of New York Landing/Black Diamond. By the early 1880s, two salmon canneries established operations near the old New York Landing site, and fishermen used the town as a base of operations. By the 1920s, one of the largest canneries, Booth and Company, employed more than 1,000 men to catch fish and 200 to 300 more to can and pack the fish for market.

Other industries followed, largely resulting from the encouragement of C.A. Hooper. Hooper, together with his brother, acquired Rancho Los Medanos from the Robinson family in 1900. In 1903, he established the Redwood Manufacturing Association and in 1908-1909 helped found Columbia Steel, the region's first steel mill in the area. Other industries followed, and by 1911, the residents considered the name "Black Diamond" outdated. Pittsburg was chosen for its new name and formal incorporation of the town ensued shortly thereafter.
A multitude of new industrial establishments followed as a result of the desire to take advantage of the relatively inexpensive empty land and the excellent water, road, and rail transportation systems of the area. The ensemble of transportation systems were improved during the first decade of the twentieth century by the addition of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line through Rancho Los Medanos in 1900. The construction of more local and regional road systems complimented the local rail and water transportation systems of the time.

The period of rapid industrialization in Contra Costa County came at the same time (1900-1920) that modern day Pittsburg saw its own industrial boom. Stimulated by the development of oil-fired and electrical power sources and the discovery of great quantities of oil in both Fresno County and Kern County, the entire northern part of Contra Costa County transformed during the first two decades of the twentieth century. The largest of the local industries was the Standard Oil Company. Standard Oil built its refinery at Richmond during the first decade of the century. Standard (now Chevron) piped its oil from Kern County. Shell and Union Oil Companies, which also had large refineries in northern Contra Costa County (in Martinez and Oleum respectively), were doing the same thing by 1920. That same year, other industrial firms in the area included the Pullman Car Company, C & H Sugar, Hercules Powder Works, Selbe Smelting and Lead Company, Mountain Clipper Company, California Fruit Canners Association, C.A. Smith Lumber Company, Cowell Portland Cement Company, Western Pipe and Steel, California Paper and Board Mills, and General Chemical Company (Woodward-Clyde 1996).

Although the town consists primarily of industrial businesses and housing communities for larger Bay Area cities, Pittsburg also served as a military region following the commencement of World War II. In 1942, the federal government purchased a portion of Rancho Los Medanos from C.A. Hooper Company for the construction of Camp Stoneman. Camp Stoneman became a staging area for over 1.5 million servicemen who served in the Pacific theatre (Pittsburg Historical Society 1962). The camp continued to operate until 1954, when the base was closed and the property was liquidated (Woodward-Clyde 1996).

Funding from the 1947 and 1948 state legislatures allowed for the construction of a National Guard Armory building in Pittsburg in 1949. The legislatures acquired two acres of land from the city with "Postwar Preemployment Reserve" moneys and presented plans to the Public Works Board the next year. The Board subsequently approved the plans and thus allowed for the building's expedient completion in one year (California Army National Guard 1950).


The Pittsburg armory on the north side of Power Avenue and Davis Avenue is located towards the corner of the block. The neighborhood setting around the armory includes a mixture of residences and civic facilities. Constructed in 1949, the Pittsburg armory (Figure 12) appears consistent with CA ARNG standardized building plan type "C" designed by the Office of the California State Architect. The Pittsburg armory is a two-story assembly hall with full-length single-story subordinate wings that form a continuous wraparound on all elevations but the rear. The Pittsburg armory is set very shallow on the flat property, creating a light, low-slung building that is somewhat dominated by the mature ash trees that ring the grounds.

The primary form of the armory is the central, two-story, rectangular assembly hall. The assembly hall is oriented north-south with a low-pitched gable-end roof that is covered with asphaltic shingles. The eight-bay structure consists of a clear span, steel-frame structural system on a concrete slab foundation with poured-concrete walls. The walls of the assembly hall are flush with the roofline, which is behind full length metal rain gutters. The windows of the north elevation of the assembly hall are an arrangement of three horizontal fixed lights that are located centrally above a large metal vehicle roll-up door. Located on both sides of the vehicle door are paired sets of steel pedestrian doors. A fixed twelve-light window (two across, six down) is located centrally on the entry facade and is affixed with protective wire-mesh screen on the interior. Located directly below the windows on the entry facade is a pair of steel pedestrian doors with single steel doors on either side. The upper windows of the eastern and western elevations of the assembly hall are sets of three, six-light metal sash, awning windows, totaling five sets per elevation.

The single-story poured-concrete subordinate wing extends out beyond the entry doors on the facade and wraps around the full length of both the eastern and western elevations of the assembly hall. The wing has an extremely low-pitched, wood-framed shed roof with slightly projecting boxed eaves. Each of the facade wings flanking the covered entry foyer have an ribbon of eight two-light metal sash windows, punctuated with window-mounted air-conditioning units. Similar fenestration patterns occur across both the western and eastern elevations toward the front and rear of the wings.

Located at the northeast portion of the lot is the cinder block and concrete OMS vehicle structure. The larger office component of the OMS structure has a low-pitched gable-end roof that is flush with the walls. A three bay extension with metal roll-up doors is attached. Portions of the interior roof insulating material of the assembly hall appear degraded yet the overall condition of the Pittsburg armory is good.


The Pittsburg armory was funded in 1947-1948 as part of the $5 million campaign to establish efficient facilities that could meet the needs of the larger and more extensively equipped CA ARNG units of the post-World War II period. The modern, efficient standardized plans and new guidelines for siting armories reflected a significant shift in how the Guard used its armories and how the armories interacted with the surrounding community. The Pittsburg armory follows the type "C" plan designed by the Office of the California State Architect and was sited within a suburban neighborhood. The armory was completed in 1949 and has been in use as a Guard armory since that time. The building retains its integrity of location, setting, design, materials, feeling, and association. Because the building is a significant resource type and it retains its integrity, it is eligible for listing in the NRHP.



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Updated 8 February 2016