The Former Pennsylvania National Guard Armory
The National Guard Armory as it appeared in April 1989.
Located between the Silas M. Clark House and Memorial Park stands the Former Pennsylvania National Guard Armory in Indiana, also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Construction began in 1922 and the National Guard occupied the building until the HGSIC purchased the building in 1999. This resulted in the building being largely unchanged from its original state. The largest feature of the Armory is the Drill Hall, formerly used for training and as a gymnasium, but now provides exhibit space for the Indiana County Historical Museum. Additional rooms included offices, storage areas, locker rooms with shower facilities, and a small kitchen.
The Indiana division of the National Guard organized on December 10, 1875, two years after a group of about 20 men formed their own volunteer militia. State headquarters mustered them into service as Company I, 13th Regiment, Ninth Division, of the National Guard of Pennsylvania. At that point, they were commanded by General Harry White of Indiana. Other first officers were Capt. Henderson C. Howard, 1st Lt. Adam C. Braughler, and 2nd Lt. John W. Sutton.
The Unit was re-designated several times throughout its tenure. In September 1878 it became Co. F, 5th Regiment; in February 1879 it became Co. F, 10th Regiment; in May 1881 it returned to being Co. F, 5th Regiment; and finally in 1910, it reverted to being Co. F, 10th Regiment.
The Indiana Division headquartered at several locations over the years. In 1914, the State Armory Board offered $30,000 in funds if a site was donated. The present Washington Street site was donated and approved in 1921, and construction finished the following year. Eight years later the Wayne Avenue-side addition was built, and some improvements were made in 1935-36 as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
Historic photo of the inside of the Armory.
The first twenty years were busy ones for the Guardsmen, having been called several times to maintain order during labor disputes in the area. From late July to early August 1877, they stationed in Pittsburgh due to strikers inflicting great damage on Pennsylvania Railroad property. Going down to Pittsburgh by train, they encountered troubles along the way as well. The trains had to move quite slowly as they often encountered destroyed sections of track. In Freeport, a mob rushed out and cut the steam pipes on the engine, causing another engine to be brought to pull the train the remaining distance of the trip. Arriving in Pittsburgh, they stayed in stock cars piled with straw, setting up what they called "Camp Law and Order."
Again in the summer of 1894, the Guardsmen were sent to Punxsutawney during a coal strike when trains suspected of carrying union strike breakers, called "scabs", were being attacked by mobs. Then in 1898, with the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, they mobilized for national service and sent to Mt. Gretna under Capt. William Mahan, being assigned to the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 1st Army Corps stationed at Chickamauga, Georgia and Lexington, Kentucky. Two of the men died of typhoid, and the remaining men returned in the autumn of 1898.
Historic photo outside of the Armory.
They returned to national service in 1916 and sent to the Mexican Border. They returned from El Paso in October of that year. The following year, they prepared to go overseas for World War I. They were assigned to the 55th Brigade, 28th Division when they arrived at Camp Hancock, Augusta, Georgia. Their company went to Calais, France on May 19, 1918, and almost immediately entered the battle zone. They were involved in a number of major war efforts there, including Chateau-Thierry, Fismes, and Meuse-Argonne. A little over a year after they arrived in Calais, about half of these men returned to Indiana. Their commander, Capt. Charles L. McLain, received the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre.
During the 1936 Johnstown Flood, the Guard went to help by standing guard at banks and the train station. By February 1941, the membership had grown to 112 men. They were put back on active duty and sent to Indiantown Gap near Harrisburg. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, they became "fillers" whenever vacancies arose in units throughout the remainder of the War. While they were gone, the Armory was a training site for Company A of the Pennsylvania Reserve Defense Corps.
Following the War, Alex Tait worked to reactivate the Indiana Unit at the urging of the Adjutant General. He started with only about 16 men, though he soon had over 100. Chester Mock, one of the local veterans of World War II, joined the company as a private in 1950, and soon was First Sergeant. During the 1950's, drills were held in the Armory building Monday evenings; later one Monday and one Sunday every month; and eventually only one weekend a month. When the draft was reinstated membership grew rapidly, and Mock remembers "people lined up from the armory door past the [Clark House]." Applicants were interviewed to fill vacancies as they occurred. The Guardsmen left again for national service to Camp Atterbury and then to Germany during the Korean War.
In 1958, the unit was designated Co. C, 876th Engineers. Ten years later, the Armory also became home to parts of two other units, the 32nd Quartermaster Detachment and Detachment 1, 722nd Supply and Service Co. Then in the summer of 1975, they were reorganized as Combat Support Company 2, 110th Infantry, and since 1992, they've been known as Company D-2, 110th Infantry.
In the summer of 1999, the National Guard moved to a new building and the Historical and Genealogical Society of Indiana County acquired the historic site with much help from State and County Legislators. After much work and expense, the Society moved into the building in 2003.