AIR Decay :: RI State Armory
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Footprint in 1899 Photographed Sept 1997 by HABS, no. RI-407, Jack Boucher
RI State Armory


This “castle for the people” has been facing a battle that threatens its well-being and the well-being of the community of Rhode Island as it has sat vacant for seven years and fallen into disrepair after years of deferred maintenance. Question #6 on November’s 2004 ballot would have continued restoration on the exterior and a good portion of the interior so that it can be reused for state offices and eventually recreational space. The State was considering moving the State Archives into the Armory, making the armory publically accesible, and moving the Archives records out of a floodzone in downtown Providence (and out of a Paolino owned building, we might add) and into a historically significant structure. This ballot question was not passed, and so once again, the fate of the Armory is in jeopardy. Right now, the armory is mostly empty, with minimal storage space being used by the state. A plan to make an elaborate Hollywood style sound stage of it never came to fruitition.


Built in 1907 on the southern end of the Dexter Training Ground, this magnificent building had been in continuous use by the RI National Guard until 1997. Ebenezer Knight Dexter willed the land to be known as the Dexter Training Ground to City of Providence to be used for military training (used during Civil War as encampment and drill field). The Training Ground became part of city’s park system (395,410 sq. ft.), and soon after, the Armory was built by contractor M.J. Houlihan and architect William Walker and Sons on the fields' southern end for a total cost of $650,000 over a period of ten years.

Architects William Walker and Sons built most of the armory buildings and Masonic halls in Rhode Island as well as many other large public buildings in the state including the North Main Street Armory, the Avon Theater and Trinity Rep. WW&Sons was selected to design the armory through a competition.

The architectural style is Medieval Gothic, with castellated fortress appearance, slate roof, yellow brick, copper flashing, and granite carvings. The general layout consists of two office towers with a four-story open atrium in each 6-story tower, flanking a large drill hall with 90 foot ceilings. This central Drill hall covers 8,775 sq. ft. The towers are each 35,100 sq. ft., with a total sq. footage including basement for the building at 165,300 sq. ft.

Before the Providence Civic Center was built downtown, the Armory building functioned as a public space with track meets, dog shows, circuses and gubernatorial inaugural balls.Its distinctive form can be seen from all over Providence and the outlying areas.

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Leonard J Arzoomanian Aug 9 2017 In the 1920’s there were Radio shows at the Armory displaying all the latest Radio equipment of the time. Does anyone have photos, memorabilia or knowledge of this?

Carol A Diffley Dec 19 2016 I went to St. Charles Boromeo School and we went there for what seemed like a “home show”. There was a toboggan ride that slid down a hill and free milk to drink. We also went to halloween parties there. So glad it is still here.

cjman Mar 12 2011 this location is currently the home of the ri state fire marshal. (118 parade st prov ri) or the corner of dexter and cranston (the area the armory inhabits

peter keegan Aug 30 2009 I ran indoor track here for 4 years in the early 70s. The air was dusty and the floor slippery, each lap was 180 yards. You could always tell when the dog shows had used the place. I have wonderful memories of great races in this magnificent building.

Wayne Womble June 19 2008 I have never been to Providence or even seen the building, but I have a tie with it. I own a 1933 Cadillac that was on display there at the Jan. 1933 auto show. It was built especially for the show and shipped there for display. I hope the building will survive many more years. I have searched for years for pictures from the show, but have been unable to find any. I know someone took pictures. If anyone happens to know of any leads, I would certainly appreciate it. Wayne Womble, North Carolina

Katherine Gamble  Actually, the Providence Armory is still in use. The National Guard still meets there on occasion. My Honor Guard team got permission to hold practices there several times a week and we still do. The reason why we can is that one of our friends, who is in the National Guard, works there, so it is certainly not closed down or renovated. It is definitely still being used. The only times people aren’t there is on National Holidays.

Whit  I walked by the armory a few weeks ago, and the door was wide open! Apparently the Fire Marshal Office is moving in. Does anyone have any info on this? (Ed: Yes, the State Fire Marshall’s office is moving their headquarters into the space. They will be occupying a few of the offices while most of the space is still unused.)

A. Avakian-Douglas  I remember going by this masterpiece when I was younger, and it looked a like a Castle to me, I admired the beautiful detail of this building and it should be preserved.

Jesse Roberts  I moved across the street from armory this year 07. my wife and I are amazed at the grand scale of it. We have never been inside but we would like to. I think they are filming a movie there right now.

John Shumaker  I also lived across the street from the armory as a young boy. I don’t know if its my memory playing tricks on me but I seem to remember looking out my bedroom window at night and watching them doing there marching drills through the windows of the great hall! I havent seen this building since I left Providence in 1986. Now, 20 years later, seeing these pictures brings back memories!

Paul Russell Sr  I was a member of the 43rd MP HHD in that building. Also remember the rifle range in the basement which is where I learned to shot as a boy scout . the large artillery naval gun that use to be in the drill hall. the first time in the armory was in 1960’s for the scout show and later for the dinner for J. Harold Williams (Chief) of the boys scouts.

M.W. Beaudoin  I ran indoor track here in the 70’s – I remember walking in and looking up through the atrium and always being amazed @ the scale of things here. Also attended school around the corner @ St. Charles (later Bishop McVinney), which was constructed of a matching yellow brick (same contractor perhaps?)

Katherine Yvenat  When I was very small we used to live across the street from the armory. I think I should have a photo of me playing in the snow with the armory in the background. It was taken in 1950 I think.

Bob Healey  I remember having gym class here because my school, Bishop McVinney Middle School had no gym. In the summer we would be in the baseball field and in the winter we would go inside. 1976-1980.

The information about each building grows as visitors let us know about their experiences. Did you or a member of your family work here? Did you grow up near it as a child? Let us know. All entries will be moderated and may be posted in an edited form. We will use your name unless you tell us otherwise. We will not make your email public.

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