Detroit Naval Armory
Detroit Naval Armory
|Location||7600 East Jefferson Avenue
|Architect||William Buck Stratton|
|Architectural style||Art Deco, Art Moderne|
|NRHP Reference #||94000662|
|Added to NRHP||July 1, 1994|
|Designated MSHS||October 2, 1980|
The Detroit Naval Armory is located at 7600 East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. It is also known as the R. Thornton Brodhead Armory. The armory was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1980 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.
In the 1880s, several states formed "naval militias", the forerunners of present-day Navy and Marine Corps Reserve units. Michigan formed the Michigan Naval Militia in 1893; the militia quickly became a popular pastime for wealthy Detroiters. Even so, the militia fought in both the Spanish–American War and World War I. By 1929, over 600 men were part of the militia, and it had outgrown its existing headquarters. Captain Richard Thorton Brodhead convinced the Michigan state legislature to construct a new building. The state of Michigan and the city of Detroit pooled $375,000 to build a new armory on Jefferson near the foot of the Belle Isle bridge.
The new armory opened in 1930, and was used as both a training facility and civic event site. The indoor drill floor was used for dances, USO mixers, auto shows, and political and sporting events. In 1932, future heavyweight champion Joe Louis fought his first career bout. With the onset of the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration funded numerous artistic additions to the armory, including three murals, plaster carvings, and extensive wood carvings; this collection of WPA art is the largest collection of federally funded Depression-era artwork of any building in the state. During World War II, the armory was used as a barracks and schoolhouse for Navy diesel and electrical schools. After the war ended, it was again used as a training center for reservists.
The armory was eventually renamed the R. Thornton Brodhead Armory, in memory of its first Naval leader. The armory was home to Marines and Sailors of Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines until 2004. As of 2008, plans were to refurbish the armory to include bowling, fitness and youth boxing club facilities.
The Detroit Naval Armory is a limestone structure with four main sections: a vestibule, a drill hall, an office / penthouse section, and a company drill hall. The building mixes Art Moderne and Art Deco influences, and contains a large array of Depression-era WPA art by artists such as John Tabaczuk, Edgar Yaeger, David Fredenthal, and Gustave Hildebrand, all with nautical themes. The building faces East Jefferson; the entrance is heavily decorated in military and naval themes using Pewabic tiles. In front of the building is a semi-circular drive encircling a flagpole erected in 1943 and a large Navy anchor from the USS Yantic, a Civil War gunboat whose hull is buried in a filled-in boat slip in Gabriel Richard Park.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- Detroit Naval Armory from the state of Michigan
- Detroit Naval Armory from the National Park Service
- R. Thornton Brodhead Naval Armory Marine Corps Reserve Center/Detroit Naval Armory from Detroit1701.org
- "Brodhead Armory eyed for renovation" Detroit Free Press, 2/14/2008
- R. Thornton Brodhead Armory Historic District from the city of Detroit