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
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,"
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
"There are two ways to deal with
asbestos," Fair said. "Get rid of it or encapsulate
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,
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,"
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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,
"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,"
"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
Set up by the City Council, the board
reviews permits that might impact historic structures in the
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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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