Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
San Jose North Second 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)
 
History

Constructed in 1934, the San Jose armory, located at 240 North 2nd Street, was built in part as a result of the Great Depression of the 1930s, when federal grants were made to states from PWA and WPA funds, which were matched by state funds. At that time, parallel with the construction of the Naval Air Station in Sunnyvale, the reports of the Adjutant General noted San Jose as one of five cities "badly in need of such armories." Officials of the city held a special election to select the armory site, and voters approved the proposal. The Guard selected a 0.25-acre site valued at $17,500; the Guard acquired it by deed from the City of San Jose in May 1932. The construction of the building concluded two years later (California Army National Guard 1932, 1950). The armory was one of the first 10 permanent armories built and owned by the State of California (California Army National Guard 1962, 1948). After its original construction, the building was remodeled in 1945, 1952, and 1959, for a cumulative cost of $59,917 (California Army National Guard 1962).
 

Description

The San Jose armory is less than a block from St. James Park and the civic core of the city. The neighborhood setting includes a combination of light industrial complexes and commercial structures to the west and 1930s-era residential homes to the east. Unlike the standardized armories built after the 1940s, designed by the Office of the California State Architect, the San Jose Armory exhibits a unique plan and form (Figure 7). The armory is essentially a two-story assembly hall set behind a two-story C-shaped office wing. The armory is constructed with board-formed concrete and has Spanish Revival stylistic details. The armory has a very shallow setback from the street, is located next to surface light-rail tracks, and generally has a very urban setting.

The primary form of the armory is the two-story, C-shaped office wing that is oriented east-west. The entry centered on the south facade is deeply recessed and is characterized by a large roman arch surround with enhanced voussoirs, evocative of a Spanish Revival style. The Spanish Revival style is further articulated by the symmetrical arrangement of rectangular steel-framed multi-light casement windows just below the shallow eaves on the upper level, small decorative balconies with wrought-iron railings on the second level of the projecting ells of the C, and the tiled low-pitched hipped roof. The Spanish Revival styling also characterizes the interior of this wing, with tile floors, plastered walls and ceilings, exposed wood framing and massive wood doors, and tile accents in several of the main offices. This wing includes a hallway, running the length of the north side of the wing that connects with the assembly hall.
The two-story assembly hall has a low-pitched gabled-roof covered with rounded red roof tiles. The interior of the assembly hall is a steel, open king truss clear span that is six bays wide. The underside of the roofing has been covered with acoustical tiles, some of which are missing. Fenestration on the assembly hall generally consists of glazed six-light hopper windows in the upper portion of the north and south walls, large steel panel entrance doors on the lower level of the east, west, and south elevations, four vertical multi-light steel-frame windows in each of the gable ends, and doors connecting to the wings on the lower level of the south elevations. Staircases located in the southeast and southwest corners of the assembly hall lead up to the viewing balcony overlooking the drill floor. The viewing balcony is two rows deep, and runs parallel to and connects to the hallway of the office wing.

The floor of the assembly hall is poured concrete that has been highly polished and scored in large rectangles. The interior secondary doors of the assembly hall are typically wood panel doors that offer access to the hallways of the office wing rooms, with steel doors at the vault entrance. The interior of the assembly hall has board-formed concrete walls painted a glossy off-white. Running the length of the roof are four rows of hanging hooded light fixtures attached to exposed metal conduit suspended from the wooden roof substructure.
Overall, the San Jose armory is in good condition, despite the missing acoustical tiles and some staining and spalling on the exterior stucco beneath the decorative balconies. The San Jose armory retains its original integrity of design, workmanship, materials, location, association, and feeling.
 

Historical Evaluation

The San Jose 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 Spanish Revival 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. The San Jose 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.

Built in 1934, the San Jose 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 Spanish Revival 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 a theatre-style balcony, 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 Spanish Revival design influences, and thus retains its integrity overall.
 

 

 
 
 
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Updated 8 February 2016