The future of the Tacoma Armory – once a center of civic life that later became a temporary jail – remains uncertain more than a year after the Washington National Guard moved out.
The 103-year-old brick fortress at South 11th Street and Yakima Avenue went on the market for $1 million this fall. The state, which owns the building, has yet to receive an offer.
Steve Valandra, spokesman for the state Department of Enterprise Services, which manages state properties, said the 1908 building was made available first to government entities – including the City of Tacoma, whose representatives toured it, but did not submit an offer.
The armory is one of nine state properties for sale to the public. The list includes downtown Tacoma’s Rhodes Center – once the University of Puget Sound Law School – which has been on and off the market for years.
It also includes four other armories around the state. Two of the five are under contract – one in Everett to Mars Hill Church, which recently purchased a historic Tacoma church, and one in Pullman to a real-estate developer.
“The real-estate market is slowly recovering, so that could help generate some interest in these other properties,” Valandra said.
State lawmakers set aside $95,000 in 1907 to build the armory, which was christened on New Year’s Eve 1908 with a ball.
Three presidents – William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson and Harry Truman – paid visits to the building, which was the site of mobilizations for World Wars I and II and was last used by the Military Department for a change-of-command ceremony in December 2011. It once contained horse stalls for cavalry companies and had been used for training exercises until the guard’s departure last year.
Capt. Keith Kosik said the building’s maintenance and renovation needs were more than the Military Department could afford. The department’s budget has been cut 42 percent since 2008, he said.
The full-time soldiers who had been assigned to the armory were relocated to Camp Murray south of Tacoma, Boeing Field and Port Orchard.
In addition to its military uses, the armory has housed balls, sporting and music events and a hearing into corruption in Tacoma. It served as a 154-bed auxiliary county jail – known as “the pound” – from 1989 to 1996. It has nearly 103,000 square feet of interior space, including a 20,000-square-foot drill floor.
The building’s inclusion on Tacoma’s Register of Historic Places limits how it can be redeveloped. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission would have to review any changes to the exterior to ensure their historic appropriateness, said the city’s historic preservation officer, Reuben McKnight.