Opinion — 28 January 2010
Out of the attic | The Alexandria Armory

After the Alexandria Light Infantry was organized in 1878, it began planning a new armory on the east side of the 200 block of South Royal St. In 1880, Benjamin F. Price, a local architect who had designed the Corn Exchange at 100 King St., drew plans for the armory. When completed later that spring, the armory hall measured 90 feet by 40 feet and held 700 people. 

In 1887, Alexandria architect Glenn Brown was hired to enlarge the armory and work was completed early the following year in time for the expanded structure to host a military ball in honor of George Washingtons birthday. The impressive building had a slate gabled roof and a front faade highlighted by four brick turrets. 

The armory hall was a popular site for expositions, musical and dance performances and bazaars. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, a crowd gathered there to see the Alexandria Light Infantry off to a train station en route to training in Richmond, and a few months later, the armory became a rest camp for other soldiers passing through Alexandria. 

After World War I, the city took over the armory and used it as a recreation center for basketball and volleyball, but also made it available to the guard unit for drills and equipment storage. In 1941, the armory served as a USO center, providing service members during World War II with social and recreation activities until a new club opened on Cameron Street. 

In 1953, a fire broke out in the armory, but a steel and concrete vault prevented hundreds of ammunition rounds stored there from exploding and causing damage to other nearby properties. The armory was never rebuilt and today the Armory Tot Lot park stands on the site. 

Out of the attic is provided by the Office of Historic Alexandria.

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