Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hinds County Armory

On a recent trip to Jackson, MS I happened to be on the grounds of the Mississippi Fairgrounds and noticed this building that appeared to be a church.  A short walk down to the building and I was deep into a mystery.  What was this building?  No marker, no cornerstone, just a boarded up entry and broken windows.  I could tell that at one time it was a grand building and that it still appeared to be in stable condition, other than missing windows and boarded up doors. 

It wasn't a mystery for very long.  A little searching and its identity was revealed.  This is the old Hinds County Armory that had been built in 1927 and used by the Mississippi National Guard as their training facility for almost 50 years. During World War II departing Mississippians mustered out from this building. It also served the community as a place for various social events.

Designed by architect Frank P. Gates the Armory is considered to be a rare example of a early 20th century Gothic Revival style architecture in a non-religious building. In addition, it has the distinction of being the oldest Armory still remaining in the State.

Although the building had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 and designated a Mississippi Landmark in 1986, time had not been too kind to it.  A flood in 1979 had done significant damage to the roof. In July 2012 the Mississippi State Fair Commission had accepted a $600,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to help preserve the Armory. Construction was under way when a fire broke out and almost consumed the building. 

Today the armory appears to be structurally sound with a new roof and boarded up doors; only a few windows are missing glass.  A peek through the small openings in the side door confirmed my suspicion that it is being used for storage by the Fair Commission.

I hope this classic building can be carefully re-purposed and re-incorporated into the Fair Grounds.  Come on people you can do it!

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