PHOTO: Cottage Grove Historical Society - The Armory in all its glory in 1940.
The Cottage Grove Armory opened in March of 1931 as the home of the National Guard’s Company D, 186th infantry. The impressive Art Deco building was designed by well-known architect John Hunziker. The Armory was a proud product of Cottage Grove labor and materials.
The lumber and mill work were produced by the J. H. Chambers & Son Sawmill. It was built with vertical grain, old-growth fir. The cement, heating, plumbing, and gravel were provided by local businesses. Only the roofers and tilers came from out of the area. It was a huge project for the town and a financial boon for the suppliers during the depression. The orders for 230,000 feet of lumber, 14,500 feet of maple flooring, 4,800 sacks of cement, 1,800 gallons of paint and 20 gallons of linseed oil kept local cash registers ringing.
The armory has been used for community events from its earliest years. Roller skating, High School graduations, Christmas concerts and dances with live music on Saturday nights were held at the armory back in the day. Some of the interior scenes from the movie Animal House were filmed on sets in the Armory’s basement.
In 2009 the 39 million dollar Lane County Armed Forces Reserve Center was built in Springfield. The Cottage Grove unit was transferred there, leaving the fate of the local building up in the air.
The building had started to show its age and needed many repairs and upgrades, but the idea of such a large facility available just a block from historic Main Street was tempting to the City of Cottage Grove.
The City obtained the building with an eye to restoring it and using it for community events.
The Armory, present day, in Cottage Grove.
The restoration has been in progress ever since. 115 historic wood double hung windows were painstakingly repaired over a period of 2 years. The exterior doors have been repaired and painted. The exterior has been painted in a way that highlights the wonderful Art Deco detail on the building. Some projects yet to be completed include renovating the basement and adding an elevator tower. Financing the project is a challenge and the City has been actively pursuing grant funding.
Although the renovations are not complete, the building is attracting a diverse group of users.
Recent events include weddings, banquets, a quinceañera, birthday parties, concerts, model train shows, beauty pageants, quilt shows, the Propagation fair, the Green Living fair and indoor soccer, among other things. If you are interested in using the Armory for an event, call the City of Cottage Grove at 541-942-5501. You may call the same number to get information on donating money or labor to the restoration.
Katy Vaughn, a member of the Cottage Grove Historical Society, wrote this for The Chronicle.