Armory Building

Address: 1301 Arapahoe St., Golden, 80401

The Armory was designed by James H. Gow, who had designed and built a similar cobblestone building in England. He also helped build the Armory building in Golden and it was supposedly identical to the one he had built in England. The Armory is reputed to be the largest cobblestone building in the United States. The building was used from 1913 until 1971 as part of the Colorado National Guard Armory. The Armory provided dormitories or barracks, parlors, library, study rooms, mess hall, kitchen, baths, a spacious drill hall and a tower for observation and map making. The building also housed the Golden Post Office, a photographic supply store, and the American Women's League, a non-profit corporation. The building is also closely associated with the Colorado School of Mines Militia Department and fraternity activities. Golden residents became accustomed to seeing James H. Gow tossing cobblestones into his horse-drawn wagon. The town may have been startled at first but thought nothing of it as months passed by. The townspeople watched Gow walk along the banks of the Clear Creek (where Golden Senior High is located now) where stream-worn rocks had been deposited and were plentiful. The rocks were probably deposited by glacial action centuries ago. The quartz stones that were used in the construction of the building were brought from the Golden Gate Canyon north and west of town. Gow was the architect and sub-contractor for the new building. It has been reported that Gow collected 3,300 wagonloads of the cobblestones. The wagonloads amounted to 6,600 tons of cobblestones for the construction of the building. The mortar used in the building was made from 5,500 sacks of cement and 1,000 cubic yards of sand. The nay-sayers in the town predicted, before construction began, that the "walls would collapse before the building was completed." Slowly and painstakingly, the outlandish building began to take form on the southeast corner of Arapahoe and Thirteenth Streets. No one really knows why Gow built this building or after what English cobblestone building it was built. It is only known that he spent many months in both research and engineering for the building. The result is a four-story building with a 65-foot high tower topped with rounded "battlement" corners, stone balustrades, and slit-like windows on each floor. Upon the completion of the Armory, the "ex-prophets" of doom did a turnabout and insisted that these walls would stand 1,000 years or more. And indeed, they have stood the weight of the stones and of history. The building was constructed on a slope with three stories showing on the north side facing Thirteenth Street. On the hillside to the right of the entrance, there are two stories. Over the "artistic doorway" conceived by Gow is a massive keystone engraved with the letter "A" and the date of "1913." One of the problems that plagued Gow was finding stonemasons, who were not as plentiful to find as bricklayers in that time. Captain Taylor supervised the building's construction. The estimated cost of the Armory was $43,666, and by December 1912 excavation was ready to begin according to the records at the Colorado National Guard headquarters in Denver. Rooms for the workmen had been rented over Koenig's Grocery (now the Golden Mercantile). During excavation, the workmen uncovered the foundation of the Old Golden House that had been destroyed by a fire on September 25, 1878. A ceremony was conducted by the Masonic Grand Lodge on June 14, 1913 for the laying of the Armory's cornerstone. The ceremony was attended by many prominent Golden businessmen including Governor Elias M. Ammons, General Chase, Colorado School of Mines President William C. Haldane, and Golden Mayor Richard Broad, Jr. Copies of the "Golden Transcript," "Golden Globe," four Denver newspapers, Colorado National Guard information, and a list of the state officials were all sealed in the Armory's cornerstone in the northeast corner of the building. Records fail to show exactly when the building was actually finished, but the "Globe," October 25, 1916, noted "The new Armory is nearing completion and will be the home of the Engineer Corps of the State Militia." This date could also indicate that the lower sections of the building may have been ready for occupancy long before the upper floors were finished. The Golden Post Office was on the ground floor facing Thirteenth Street and was ready to handle the 1913 Christmas rush. B.P. Quaintance was the postmaster at the time. Next to the post office on the same side of the building, Harry Robinson opened a photographic supply store. The store included a dark room and work section for picture framing. He also sold fancy candies and fine cigars. The second floor was used as a drill room. The officer's quarters, sergeant's room, and the lockers were also on the second floor. The tower was designed for observation. It was possible to overlook the greater part of downtown Golden from the vantage point of the tower. Rooms were also set aside for map making and photographic purposes by engineers. The "Transcript" noted, on August 20, 1914, that there was a force of men who were building a retaining wall to improve the lawn and park area in front of the Armory. The Armory has since seen a variety of uses. On February 13, 1951, the Jefferson County Civil Defense, directed by retired Brigadier General Robert M. Hardaway, was given quarters on the second floor. Here a number of area drills and training sessions were held. The large gymnasium has been used for high school basketball tournaments. A young attorney, Ronald F. Weiszmann, purchased the structure on August 17, 1971, under the ARMORY Limited Partnership, when the future of the Armory appeared uncertain. While remodeling, the young attorney discovered the burned floor beams in the second-story gym. The fire that caused the damage had occurred in 1946. The cause of the fire was that of a mat bursting into flames during a National Guard drill team practice. The Cobblestone Armory has become a traditional landmark and now also offers modern office space. The Scotsman's Book shop and others are now located where the Golden Post Office was originally located. The Armory stands sentinel for Golden's fast-growing downtown area. It is a reminder of the dedication of one man's efforts and dreams. Gow not only designed and built the Armory, he also designed the Castle Rock Pavilion, where he wanted battlements. He further proposed having canon around the dance hall. He was the architect for the county jail next to the courthouse at the northeast corner of Washington Avenue and Sixteenth Street. He also designed a number of old homes. Gow was a native to Golden and at one time was an alderman in the Third Ward where he resided.
Quad Map/Date: Golden, 1965 (1994)
Sec/Town/Range: S27, T3S, R70W
Elevation: c. 5650
Source: Brown, Georgina, "The Shining Mountains," pp. 136-139; Ryland, Charles S., "For the Golden Times," pp. 14, 22; Wagenbach, Lorraine, et al, "Golden: The 19th Century - A Colorado Chronicle," p. 34; "The Golden Transcript," Supplement - 1996 Golden Guide.
Last Modified: Mon, December 3 2012

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