Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Salinas Howard Street Armory
(Salinas Alisal Street Armory)
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)

Developers Alanson Riker and William Jackson formed a partnership with cattle rancher Eugene Sherwood in 1867 and together laid out the half-mile-square town of Salinas. Sherwood anticipated the future importance transporting agricultural products to markets and offered Southern Pacific Railroad free acreage for a right-of-way. The result of this offer was the opening of a Southern Pacific depot in Salinas in 1872. That same year, Salinas became the county seat of Monterey County. Two years later, Salinas was incorporated as a charter city. Agricultural endeavors in the Salinas Valley succeeded the industry of hides and tallow, and saw grains, sugar beets, and beans flourished as crops until after World War I, when lettuce, artichokes and broccoli generated a great wealth for Salinas.

The Salinas National Guard unit was organized as Troop C, Cavalry, National Guard of California on August 5, 1895. It was the first Guard unit formed in the central coastal region of California and was headquartered in the new brick armory at the corner of Salinas and Alisal Streets. The armory was dedicated on August 15, 1896 and housed the unit's supplies, ammunition, and its single-shot Springfield 45-70 carbines that were left over from the Indian Wars. The 1906 unit was called into active duty after the San Francisco earthquake and fire. The troop was deployed to Golden Gate Park, where it maintained law and order in the stricken area for over one month. On May 1, 1911, the National Guard of California integrated Troop C into the 1st Squadron of California Cavalry; the other troops in the squadron were A Bakersfield, B Sacramento, and D Los Angeles.

The unit was shipped to France with the 40th Division for active duty in World War I. Because of the successful use of tanks in World War I, the Army organized one tank unit in each of the 18 National Guard Infantry divisions. Salinas was selected as the site for one of these units. In 1924, the 40th Tank Company was authorized and equipped with eight light tanks of French-Renault design that were left over from the war. The 40th Tank Company was mobilized for duty during the longshoreman's strike on the San Francisco waterfront, the Folsom Prison Riots, and other events during the 1920s and 1930s.

The old armory was inadequate for a mechanized outfit and was vacated by the Guard and converted to other uses. In 1924, the new 40th Tank Company occupied the Lacey Building at the corner of Market and Monterey Streets in Salinas. The need for a permanent armory became more compelling, and the city council launched a campaign to construct a new armory on Howard Street-between Salinas Street and Lincoln Avenue. Seeded by the city's purchase of the land for $40,000 and $10,000 in cash from the community, the federal government and the state provided the balance of funds to construct the building at a total cost of $250,000.

The Salinas armory was constructed in 1933 and was one of the first 10 state-owned armory buildings built by 1934, with only two more armory buildings under state ownership by 1948 (California Army National Guard 1948). Funding for the armory building at Salinas was provided by the state legislature in the form of a $50,000 grant that was part of a $175,000 fund designated for the construction of four armories that year California Army National Guard 1932). The grant was part of a Depression-era federal program that made grants to states from PWA and WPA funds, which were matched with state funds (California Army National Guard 1948). Construction of the Salinas armory building was completed on November 1, 1933 (California Army National Guard 1962). The 1-acre parcel on which the armory was built was acquired by deed from the City of Salinas on December 7, 1938 (California Army National Guard 1950). The armory building underwent changes in 1950 and again in 1953 for a total cost to the state of $64,863 (California Army National Guard 1962).

At the onset of World War II, the Unites States Army formed four tank battalions from the 18 widely dispersed National Guard units. The 40th Tank Company designation was changed to Company C, 194th Tank Battalion; Companies A and B representing Minnesota and Missouri respectively. On September 26, 1941, they arrived in Manila to reinforce the Philippine Islands and had the distinction of being the first United States armored force deployed overseas in what would become World War II. Company C, 194th Tank Battalion was involved in many battles and skirmishes in the Philippines and fought along with other Unites States and Philippine forces until the Japanese overran the islands in early April, 1942. Company C, 194th Tank Battalion, was officially inactivated April 2, 1946. Only 47 of the 107 men who left Salinas in February 1941 returned home.

Immediately after World War II, Salinas was without a National Guard unit until the local guard was reorganized at the new headquarters of the 1st Battalion, 149th Armor on May 27, 1947. Since the 1950s, the local units have participated in various guard duty deployments, including the Pajaro River flooding of Watsonville in December 1955; the flooding of the Mission Fields at the mouth of the Carmel River in1958; the Watts race riots in August 1965; the Central Coast forest fires in 1977, 1987, and 1989; and more recent floods, earthquakes, and civil disorders. In May 1992, the Guard was again deployed to southern California to help quell another civil disorder. More disaster relief came in October 1989 after the Loma Prieta earthquake. Most recently, the Guard provided assistance to Monterey and Santa Cruz County authorities during the Salinas and Pajaro River floods in January and March 1995.


The Salinas armory is located on the northwest corner at the intersection of Howard and Lincoln streets. The City Hall and a local post office are located west of the armory, and to the north some older structures, including a fire house and bus terminal, have fallen into disrepair. One block east of the armory is Main Street, and some moderate commercial establishments lie to the south. Unlike the standardized armories that were built after the 1940s, the Salinas armory exhibits a unique plan and form (Figure 6). The overall form of the Salinas armory is a two-story assembly hall flanked lengthwise on both sides by single-story wings. The building has a shallow setback from the streets, giving the overall impression of a somewhat squat, heavy, sturdy citadel.

The assembly hall runs north-south, with the roofline hidden behind the crenellated parapets. The decorative motifs of impressed vertical forms, stylized battlements, and symmetrical fenestration are evocative of Art Moderne/Art Deco design. The assembly hall and associated subordinate wings are constructed by board-formed concrete set on a concrete slab.

The main entry to the building is centered on the gable-end south-facing facade. The entry is accessed by wide, low steps that lead to three openings of the entry loggia, which have stepped, stylized ziggurat forms at the top. The loggia has a concrete floor, scored into blocks, a decorative ticket window on the eastern wall, and three pairs of double pedestrian doors that lead into the assembly hall. The interior of the assembly hall is a vaulted, crescent-truss clear span, with the ceiling tiled with acoustic material. The second-story windows of the assembly hall are steel-framed fixed multi-light units, each with a large, centrally located casement light. The doors inside the assembly hall that lead to the adjoining wings are a combination of wood and steel pedestrian doors, paired in the corners of the stage end and single along the long walls. The single-story wings flanking both sides of the assembly hall are constructed by board-formed concrete resting on a concrete slab, with wood-frame low-pitched hipped roofs. The wings house smaller rooms that serve functions such as offices, classrooms, the vault, and a kitchen.

Distinctive features of the Salinas armory include a full-width eight-row balcony, complete with wood theater chairs, that spans the south of the assembly hall above the main entrance. The balcony itself is constructed with board-formed poured concrete and is accessed by half-turn stairs in both the southeast and southwest corners. The floor of the assembly hall is composed of long, narrow wood strips with a stage area built into the central portion of the northern wall.

All elevations of the Salinas armory have a moderate amount of foliage with shrubbery near the walls, intermixed with larger cypress and pine tress. There are small lawns on both sides of the concrete entry course as well as a full-length lawn bounded by sidewalk along the eastern elevation.

Presently, the assembly hall and the former vehicle bay at the north end of the armory accommodate a variety of gymnastic equipment. Overall, the Salinas armory is in good condition; however, some of the acoustic roof tiles show signs of water staining, and some of the exterior paint has begun to exfoliate.


The Salinas armory meets the definition for a significant resource type under both Criterion A, for its association with World War II, and Criterion C, for its association with the early twentieth-century state-owned armories period of construction and Art Deco style of architecture. The armory also retains its integrity and therefore is eligible for listing in the NRHP.

The armory is one of the 10 armories that were owned by the state prior to and during World War II. The mobilization for World War II involved nearly all CA ARNG 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. On September 26, 1941, Company C, 194th Tank Battalion from Salinas arrived in Manila to reinforce the Philippine Islands and had the distinction of being the first Unites States Armored Force deployed overseas in what would become World War II. Company C, 194th Tank Battalion was involved in many battles and skirmishes in the Philippines. This association with the CA ARNG's participation in World War II qualifies the armory as a significant property under Criterion A.

Built in 1933, the Salinas armory was the seventh armory built as a CA ARNG-owned armory. It is also one of the four armories built by the CA ARNG as part of the WPA program. The CA ARNG employed the Art Deco design philosophies popular during that period to reflect the authority, importance, and pride of the CA ARNG presence within the community. The Salinas armory is also one of the few armories with wood flooring, a theatre-style balcony, and a built-in stage, indicating the dual role during that period as a community center. The armory qualifies as a significant resource under Criterion C because it reflects the transition period during which the CA ARNG established permanent state-owned facilities for their Guard units. The armory retains its integrity of location, design, materials, feeling, and association. The building is still easily recognized as a pre-war armory with Art Deco design influences, and thus retains its integrity overall.
News Article: The Salinas Californian
Salinas Armory Opens New Chapter:
History of Facility Ranges from Little Richard and the Ice Follies to Japanese Internees
30 March 2012 10:16 PM
The stylish, albeit majestically empty, Salinas Armory is being primed for yet another role in its lively and varied history.
"Absolutely, this building has a future," John Fair said. "We're working to bring it back to useable space."
The city's public works director for 14 years and now retired, Fair is project manager for getting the 18,000-square-foot Armory ready for its next mission, to serve as headquarters for the Salinas Police Activities League.
PAL programs could be up and running by early summer, said Angel Gonzalez, a Salinas Police Department officer and PAL director.
From the pounding rock 'n' roll of Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly" to the sequined glide of Ice Follies skaters to a base for National Guard troops and a check-in point for Japanese-Americans swept up in the World War II internment policy, no building in Salinas has been as involved in the city's life as the Armory at 100 Howard St. between Salinas Street and Lincoln Avenue.
Now it's PAL's turn.
"We've had fantastic partnerships with other agencies, but we've never had a place of our own," Gonzalez said.
PAL is a nonprofit. Its goal is to keep children ages 5 to 18 off the streets and on track toward productive lives. Tools include sports, social, educational and cultural programs — all free.
PAL has signed a 10-year lease with the city of Salinas to use the building as its new headquarters.
Now, it's planning its future in the Armory.
Ideas include a homework center with computers, Hartnell College students serving as tutors and a basketball program with four 3-on-3 courts.
"And can you think of a safer place for children to be?" Gonzalez said. "We're right across the street from the Police Department."
More than a coat of paint
The first step in renovation involved a potential problem: asbestos, Fair said.
Steam radiators originally heated the Armory, and the pipes had been wrapped in asbestos as fire-proofing and insulation.
"There are two ways to deal with asbestos," Fair said. "Get rid of it or encapsulate it."
The asbestos wrapping and the heating fixtures have been removed. Cement slurry poured under the floor has entombed and rendered harmless what was left, Fair said.
All paint containing lead was removed, Gonzalez said.
Ridding the structure of asbestos and lead paint, though, bumped the bill above the $100,000 in seed money granted by the Harden Foundation, Gonzalez said; another $13,000 had to be found.
The difference was covered by PAL funds collected from previous fundraisers, he said.
"For the kids, we went the extra mile," he said.
Fair estimates it will take another $200,000 to bring the Armory to useable status. To help the process along, Leadership Salinas Valley's Class XXX will help raise the funds. The class is offered through the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce.
"We'd like to bring the kitchen back, too, then rent out the facility for receptions and weddings," Fair said.
Another way, in other words, to raise future funds for PAL.
Sweat and muscle
Fair pushed open the Armory's solid oak doors and stepped into the cavernous space.
He gazed toward the ceiling, nearly four stories above, then toward the eight-row balcony, which seats 200.
"This has been a hopping place," Fair said. "What are you going to do, let it rot? Let's bring it back."
The Armory, which began in 1933, was built with New Deal funds and with the sweat and muscle of laborers from the Works Projects Administration.
"Part of the original intent is that it was to serve as a meeting hall," Fair said.
The Armory also fulfilled a military role, of course, as a headquarters for local California National Guard troops.
In 2005, the city of Salinas bought the Armory from the state as a "public use facility."
Elite Gymnastics Academy ran a youth program there until mid-2006. Since then, the Police Department has used it for a variety of training purposes.
Cool beauty, dancing fools
Longtime Salinas residents, such as Ted Ponton and Anita Gonzales, have strong memories linked to the Armory.
Ponton, 88, a 37-year veteran of the Salinas Fire Department and now in the glasswork business, remembers the vital role the Armory played in the life of Salinas in the mid-1940s.
In 1943, Ponton's mother opened the Armory Cafe at 231 Salinas St., now Rosita's Armory Cafe. The old fire station where Ponton was based sat next to the Armory, and Ponton kept tabs on it.
"They hosted pro wrestling matches. All fake, but they filled the place," he recalled. "Then prize fights. That was toward the end of the 1940s and into the '50s."
Even the Ice Follies came to town.
Using an oversized compressor aboard a truck and cooling pipe and hoses with fine-spray nozzles, workers created a performance ice rink for the show, which ran a week.
Another performer to fill the Armory was trumpeter Harry James, there with his big band.
"Oh, it was big time," Ponton said.
Anita Gonzales, Salinas High School Class of 1961, recalls vividly 1958-60, when the Armory served as a giant teen dance hall.
"Fats Domino, Little Richard, The Platters, Ike and Tina Turner ¶," all played the Armory, Gonzales recalled.
"It was more a dance party than a concert," she said. "We'd be out on the floor. We'd be dancing fools."
The evening's wardrobe was in step with the late 1950s. Girls' outfits included petticoats in multiples and white "bucks" (buckskin shoes).
"Angora socks and ponytails, too," Gonzales said.
"As for the guys, they had about 20 pounds of pomade on their hair."
A varied history
Mark Norris also went to a concert at the Armory in the 1960s.
"Canned Heat," he said, recalling the rock group.
Today, the Armory is in his thoughts again. This time, it's as chairman of the Salinas Historic Resources Board.
Set up by the City Council, the board reviews permits that might impact historic structures in the city.
It aims to make sure nothing of historic value takes a broadside from the wrecking ball.
The Armory has community value on several levels, Norris said.
For one, its design is Art Deco, meaning it features a stylish emphasis on angular and geometric touches.
Historically, too, it has value.
"It was home to the soldiers who (fought in World War II) in Bataan, and it served as a collection point for the Japanese internment camps," Norris said.
"This is a very significant building in Salinas history."
A sad chapter
Old black-and-white photos taken in 1942 and provided by Fair show families of Japanese descent on the Armory steps.
They're carrying suitcases, and their faces show bewilderment.
It was a grim moment.
The families had arrived at the Armory in compliance with Executive Order 9066.
Signed Feb. 19, 1942, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the order called for shipment of people of Japanese ancestry away from coastal California.
Because the United States was fighting Imperial Japan as part of its involvement in World War II, a broad net of suspicion was cast across Americans of Japanese heritage.
The internment, for which the U.S. government has since formally apologized and paid reparations, was justified at the time on the grounds that those rounded up might help the enemy if left to their own devices.
The Armory was one of the internment's reporting stations. Families were initially processed there.
Children to grandparents, they were then loaded with their bundles and suitcases aboard buses and driven to the Salinas Rodeo Grounds.
From there, most were sent on to confinement in Arizona's Poston Internment Camp.
Protecting the past to improve the future
Salinas needs to protect its older buildings, which not only represent the past but can contribute to its future, Anita Gonzales said.
That includes the Salinas Armory, she said.
"It was full of such good times, such good memories," she said. "If they ever think of taking it down, I'm going to have to go down there with my little, 'I don't think so' sign!'"
PAL's Gonzalez would like to create a new feature in the Armory: a small museum in one of the office rooms.
It would feature items and photos borrowed from the community on a revolving basis. The items would help the children in PAL understand the story of their city and its Armory.
"We want the kids to have a sense of the history of the building and the area," Gonzalez said.
Images of the Howard Street Armory

Images of Alisal Street Armory


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Updated 8 February 2016