The Armory in Golden

The Armory Building in Golden is one of those amazing Colorado structures that you happen upon every now and then.


It was designed by local architect James H. Gow and was built in 1913 [pdf] for use by the Company A of the Engineer Corps of the Colorado National Guard.  Although it was originally designed to be built using brick, budgetary concerns caused the builder to look for alternative materials.  As a result, the Armory was built almost entirely of cobblestones gathered from the nearby Clear Creek.  It is supposedly the largest cobblestone building in the United States.  (The other materials are concrete, and cut stone used around the entrance.)


The photo below shows the range of colors and sizes of the cobblestones.  The corner stone indicates the building was dedicated by the Masons, or more specifically the Most Worshipful (M.W.) Grand Lodge of Ancient Free (A.F.) and Accepted Masons (A.M.) of Colorado.


Because it is a load-bearing structure, the Armory has incredibly thick walls at the base that get thinner as the building gets taller.  In general, the base of the building was built using larger cobblestones than those used on the upper floors, though large stones can be found throughout the building’s façades.  Large cut stones were used at the window lintels, while the sills appear to be cast concrete.  It’s interesting to see that the builders used two stones at the upper lintel in the photo below.  A joint in the middle of a lintel usually reduces the structural integrity of the lintel as the lintel no longer evenly supports the load of the masonry above it.  However, in this case, there may be an internal steel beam supporting this lintel, or the angles of the two stones may be enough of an arch to carry the load above.  I am not a structural engineer, so I defer to others on this one.  I just found it a curious detail.


The stones at the arch around the building entrance are a mix of cobblestones and rough cut stones, with what looks like a cast stone keystone at the center.  Note the small cobblestones at the intrados of the arch, just above the doorway.  They are laid with a darker gray mortar than the mortar used on the rest of the building, which may indicate they were a later addition or simply that they were repointed at a different time.  The small stones are much rougher than the other cobblestones, which also makes me think they may have been installed during a different building campaign.


The Armory originally housed the barracks, mess hall, drill hall, auditorium and weapons storage rooms for the Colorado National Guard, but it also included Golden’s post office at the northeast corner of the first level.  In 1940, the post office moved out of the Armory, though its walk-in safe is reportedly still located inside the building.  During the Spanish Influenza epidemic in 1918, the Armory’s drill hall was used as a Red Cross hospital, and in 1933 it was occupied by the Civil Works Administration.  Since World War II, the Armory has housed offices, stores, and even students from the Colorado School of Mines.  The exterior of the Armory was restored in 1974, and it was added to the National Register in 1978 [pdf].  It was recently purchased by Calvary Church, though plans for the building have not yet been announced.  Hopefully the church recognizes the incredible architectural heritage they now own, in addition to their wonderful 1867 church building.