Cranston Street Armory

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Cranston Street Armory
Providence armory.jpg
The Cranston Street Armory in the late 1950s
Location Providence, Rhode Island
Coordinates 41°48′58″N 71°25′46″W / 41.81611°N 71.42944°W / 41.81611; -71.42944Coordinates: 41°48′58″N 71°25′46″W / 41.81611°N 71.42944°W / 41.81611; -71.42944
Built 1907
Architect William R. Walker & Son
Part of Broadway-Armory Historic District (#74000047)
Added to NRHP 1974

The Cranston Street Armory is an historic building in Providence, Rhode Island. It was built in 1907 at a cost of $650,000.00. The building was occupied by the Rhode Island National Guard from its opening until 1996. Since then, parts of the building have been used as film studios, and some of its offices occupied by the Rhode Island State Fire Marshal. The National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the Armory as one of "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places" in its annual list for 1997.[1] Its distinctive yellow bricks, crenellated turrets, and decorative stonework mark it as a historically significant building and neighborhood icon.


The architects were William R. Walker & Son and the buider was Michael J. Houlihan.[2] The armory was built with a steel-truss frame, with a large open central hall and two towers with a total of 165,000 square feet (15,300 m2) of space.[3] The main hall alone is as wide as two football fields. After World War I, the armory was used by 243rd Coast Artillery, and in later years by the 43rd and 118th as well.[4]

On account of its imposing presence, the Cranston Street Armory has lent its name to the surrounding area of Providence's West End, which is often known as the "Armory District." Several area businesses also take their name from this building.[5]

The films Outside Providence (1999) and Underdog (2007) were filmed using the open areas within the Armory for bluescreen work, as well as exterior shots of adjacent areas.

The Armory was used for several years by the Rhode Island Interscholastic League to host indoor track and field meets including the Rhode Island state championships and the Brown Invitational track meet.[6]


In 1981 structural problems were discovered that closed the main hall to public events. The National Guard however did not have the funds for the extensive repairs and upkeep required by the buildings age.

As of 1986 the Cranston Street Armory was home to the following Rhode Island National Guard units:

  • Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 103d Field Artillery Brigade
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 103rd Field Artillery Regiment
  • Service Battery, 1st Battalion, 103rd Field Artillery Regiment
  • A Battery, 1st Battalion, 103rd Field Artillery Regiment
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 43rd Military Police Brigade
  • Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 118th Military Police Battalion
  • 119th Military Police Company

Around 1990 the tenant units were transferred to other armories. The Field Artillery units were moved to the Armory of Mounted Commands in Providence and the Military Police units were moved to the Warwick Armory in Warwick.

In 1996 the State of Rhode Island took over the property, and the National Guard moved out the following year. After the state passed tax incentives to encourage filming in Rhode Island the armory served a brief stint as a sound stage. In 2004 a proposed bond issue to finance renovation and restoration of the armory was placed on the ballot and supported by the West Broadway Neighborhood Association, but did not pass. In recent years, the building has hosted car shows, inaugural balls, track meets and home shows, and currently houses the office of the state fire marshal, and storage space for other R.I. state agencies.[7] Today the building is in desperate need of repair. A small part of the building on the Parade Street side is occupied by the State of Rhode Island Fire Marshal and Bomb Squad, the main hall is used for storage.[8] In 2014 Governor Chafee announced that the state would cut back on a renovation plan, and a state Senator proposed adding $3 million to the state budget for repairs.[7]

In January 2015, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza held his inauguration gala in the building. A few weeks later, it was named as one of 2015's "Most Endangered Properties" by the Providence Preservation Society, one of many times it has earned that distinction.[9]


  1. ^ America's 11 Most Endangered Properties (1997), National Trust for Historic Preservation
  2. ^ Providence Preservation Society's Most Endangered Properties Wiki
  3. ^ National Trust for Historic Preservation
  4. ^ Seth Brown, Rhode Island curiosities quirky characters, roadside oddities & other offbeat stuff (Guilford, CT. : Globe Pequot Press, 2007),p. 10
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b John Hill (30 May 2014). "Lawmaker wants to restore $3 million in state budget for repairs to Cranston Street Armory". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 30 May 2014. 
  8. ^ Dunham, Grace (November 3, 2011), Castle for the People, The College Hill Independent, retrieved December 9, 2011 
  9. ^ Stabile, Lori. "Prov. Preservation Society names 2015 most endangered properties". Providence Business News. Retrieved 4 February 2015. The Cranston Street Armory has been mentioned on lists regularly from 1996 to 2000, as well as in 2003, and 2014 and 2015. The 1907 castle-like building gained attention when Mayor Jorge O. Elorza hosted his inaugural gala inside it, but needs upgrades and has been underutilized since the National Guard left it in 1996. 

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