Detroit Naval Armory

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Detroit Naval Armory
Detroit Naval Armory.jpg
Location 7600 East Jefferson Avenue
Detroit, Michigan
Coordinates 42°20′55″N 82°59′51″W / 42.34861°N 82.99750°W / 42.34861; -82.99750Coordinates: 42°20′55″N 82°59′51″W / 42.34861°N 82.99750°W / 42.34861; -82.99750
Built 1930
Architect William Buck Stratton
Architectural style Art Deco, Art Moderne
Governing body State
NRHP Reference # 94000662[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP July 1, 1994
Designated MSHS October 2, 1980[2]

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[2] and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.[1]


In the 1880s, several states formed "naval militias", the forerunners of present-day Navy and Marine Corps Reserve units.[3] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[3]

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.[3] In 1932, future heavyweight champion Joe Louis fought his first career bout.[3] 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;[3] this collection of WPA art is the largest collection of federally funded Depression-era artwork of any building in the state.[2] 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.[3]

The armory was eventually renamed the R. Thornton Brodhead Armory, in memory of its first Naval leader.[3] The armory was home to Marines and Sailors of Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines[3] until 2004.[5] As of 2008, plans were to refurbish the armory to include bowling, fitness and youth boxing club facilities.[5]


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.[2] The building mixes Art Moderne and Art Deco influences, and contains a large array of Depression-era WPA art[2] by artists such as John Tabaczuk, Edgar Yaeger, David Fredenthal, and Gustave Hildebrand,[4] all with nautical themes.[6] The building faces East Jefferson; the entrance is heavily decorated in military and naval themes using Pewabic tiles.[4] 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.[2]


  1. ^ a b Staff (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Detroit Naval Armory from the state of Michigan
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Detroit Naval Armory from the National Park Service
  4. ^ a b c R. Thornton Brodhead Naval Armory Marine Corps Reserve Center/Detroit Naval Armory from
  5. ^ a b "Brodhead Armory eyed for renovation" Detroit Free Press, 2/14/2008
  6. ^ R. Thornton Brodhead Armory Historic District from the city of Detroit