96-H 8986

Passed in House

Apr. 11, 1996.


WHEREAS, Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and described by author Robert M. Fogelson as "one of the most picturesque (armories) in the country," the Cranston Street Armory is a vital landmark in the history of Rhode Island and an architectural treasure unique to the Ocean State. Financial considerations, however, are forcing the Rhode Island Army National Guard to consider vacating the armory before October 1, thus ending an 88-year association and troubling the armory's neighbors, who fear for the future of the striking, castle-like fortress. In the words of Chris Good, President of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association, "I think their vacating the building is a disaster for the neighborhood and for that building .... I can see it changing from a neighborhood strength into a neighborhood blight."; and

WHEREAS, The National Guard's operating budget has been more than cut in half in the past five years, making it difficult for the Guard to maintain the cavernous old structure, which needs a new roof, falls short of safety-code specifications and requires numerous additional repairs; and

WHEREAS, In the 19th century, the State Arsenal stood on this site. A mill later erected there was eventually razed and work began on the armory in 1903. Architect William R. Walker and builder Michael J. Houlihan, both of Providence, completed the project in February 1908; and

WHEREAS, When it was built, the armory served as the civic center for the state. The mammoth drill hall, 230 feet by 170 feet, was the stage for the governor's ball, state track meets, circuses, dog shows and even naval gunfire practice; and

WHEREAS, Tentative plans call for moving the artillery presently stored in the Cranston Street Armory to the Armory of Mounted Commands on North Main Street, but that option would force the displacement of personnel from that newer facility; and

WHEREAS, There exists the possibility that the Legacy Resource Management Program of the Department of Defense may choose to invest in the preservation of the Cranston Street Armory, or perhaps the state, in need of vocational and educational centers within our neighborhoods, should consider doing something with it. Once a lively community resource, the Cranston Street Armory can be that once again; and

WHEREAS, Sprawling the length of a city block, its distinctive copper-topped turrets and battlements more reminiscent of a medieval European citadel than the home of a modern army, the Cranston Street Armory offers considerable usable space and is historically important. To abandon or destroy it would be a crime against the state's heritage. Rhode Island, throughout its unique history, has often found ways to preserve those very special landmarks which define our people's past, present and future. To fail to act in this instance by not exploring every avenue to save and restore the fabled Cranston Street Armory would be an irretrievable loss to ourselves and our posterity. "The prospect of demolishing the building is unthinkable," says Edward F. Sanderson, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission. We could not agree more; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That this House of Representatives of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations hereby respectfully requests that the State Adjutant General, Brigadier General Reginald A. Centracchio, delay vacating the Cranston Street Armory until another suitable tenant can be found. The unique and historic nature of this structure demands that some kind of serious effort be made to save it; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the Secretary of State be and he hereby is authorized and directed to transmit a duly certified copy of this resolution to the State Adjutant General, Brigadier General Reginald A. Centracchio.

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