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Citizen-soldier militias have had a constant presence in the United States since the colonial era, but it was not until Congress passed the Militia Act of 1903—also known as the Dick Act for sponsor Senator Charles W. F. Dick, chairman of the Committee on the Militia—that the National Guard became an official partner in the nation’s armed services, receiving federal support for training, equipment, and wages. Arkansas’s state militia was organized into the Arkansas National Guard as a result of the Dick Act.
The Marianna National Guard Armory was constructed in 1929 as part of a statewide armory building program that was authorized by the Arkansas General Assembly with Act 271 of 1925, which created a “Military Fund” for building armories. Seventeen Arkansas armories were built or purchased using the fund, though most of the building of armories during the Great Depression was done through such New Deal agencies as the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The Marianna (Lee County) armory reflects the Art Deco style of architecture, one of the more popular styles for the armories built during that period.
Arkansas Adjutant General Joe Harris visited Marianna on September 13, 1928, to select a site for a new armory to serve as regimental headquarters of the 206th Coastal Artillery and to house that unit’s headquarters detachment and regimental band. He chose property on the southeastern corner of Mississippi and Church streets, which provided a ninety-three-foot frontage on Mississippi while going back 134.5 feet adjacent to Church. The state Military Department provided $20,000 from the Military Fund to construct and supply the armory; the City of Marianna was responsible for finding $3,000 to purchase the site. Officials also decided that Marianna’s Julius Benham American Legion Post would have space within the new building.
Architect Durward F. Kyle drew up specifications by December 6, and the American Legion post paid for the site after raising $2,250, receiving $500 from the city, and borrowing $750 from the bank. The armory was formally opened on June 6, 1929.
Marianna was home to several National Guard companies in the early 1920s. The official company based there was designated Headquarters Battery, 206th Coast Artillery in 1924; that unit served in the Aleutian Islands during World War II. After the war, the armory housed Headquarters Battery, 455th Artillery from 1946 to 1959; Headquarters Battery, Third Battalion, 206th Artillery from 1959 to 1967; part of Headquarters and Service Battery, Fifth Battalion, 206th Artillery from 1967 to 1972; and Service Battery, Fifth Battalion, 206th Artillery from 1972 until the unit moved to a new armory in 1980.
The building ceased functioning as an armory in 1980. It was rehabilitated to serve as Marianna’s City Hall and as a senior citizens’ center in 1987, roles it still fills in the twenty-first century. The Marianna National Guard Armory was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 24, 2007.
For additional information:Burns & McDonnell Engineering Co., Inc., and Historical and Architectural Research, LLC. Army National Guard: Draft Final Historic Context Study, December 2004. Kansas City, MO: Burns & McDonnell and Historical and Architectural Research, December 2004.
Christ, Mark K. “Marianna National Guard Armory.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form, 2006. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/LE0195.nr.pdf (accessed June 5, 2015).
Pumphrey, Clinton. National Guard Context Report. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
URS Group, Inc. Arkansas Army National Guard Intensive Historic Research and Context. Gaithersburg, MA: URS Group, 2005.
Mark K. ChristArkansas Historic Preservation Program
Last Updated 6/5/2015
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