From the Museum Archives: Craig’s State Armory
“What an amazing building!” are commonly the first words out of a visitor’s mouth upon entering our museum. And they are correct; it is an amazing building with an equally amazing history.
Following World War I, the United States recognized the need for a more organized military system of national defense. As part of the National Defense Act of 1920, the federal government began furnishing more clothing, arms and equipment to the various National Guard units across the nation. However, it was up to the states to provide a place to house the newly-stocked Reserve units.
Colorado responded to the Defense Act by passing a bill which provided $500,000 to construct armories in communities that could enlist enough men to justify the expense. Craig answered the call and became the first town in Colorado to be awarded an armory when, led by George Pughe, the community signed nearly 60 men within 24 hours. On April 30, 1921 they became known as Company A, 157th Infantry.
By 1922 the State Armory was completed in downtown Craig on the corner of Sixth Street and Yampa Avenue. In addition to housing the National Guard, it was also designated as a community gathering place.
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Boxing matches, basketball games, dances, concerts, plays, roller skating, funerals etc. were all held in the armory over the next 50 years. The armory even included a pool in the basement until it was discovered that the humidity was warping the wood floors above. Recently, we were even told of a “first kiss” occurring within these walls — but we are certain there were countless others!
Company A and the community continued to utilize the armory until the mid-1970s when the National Guard requested more space. The armory was also in need of an array of repairs. A new armory was built on the east side of town where today’s Boys & Girls Club is housed. With the move, Colorado deeded the old armory to Moffat County for $1. The county commissioners soon considered selling the newly-acquired building to a business; however, the state had included a deed restriction requiring the building to only remain in public use; this restriction still exists today.
During the 1980s the building was utilized by various organizations and events. In 1990 Moffat County decided that the best use for the “old armory” was to house the ever-growing Moffat County Museum -— then in the Moffat County Courthouse.
Significant repairs and major renovations were soon made to the building which earned Moffat County the Stephen H. Hart Award from Colorado Historical Society and the 1991 Preservation Excellence Award from Colorado Preservation, Inc.
The museum officially opened its doors on Memorial Day, 1991 under the new name “Museum of Northwest Colorado.” The following year the armory was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Today, the old armory still stands tall as the anchor of downtown Craig. Helping to ensure its continued benefit to the community, the museum has become a nationally-acclaimed institution that sees 12,000 visitors from around the world walk through the doors every year to say “What an amazing building!”
Paul Knowles is assistant director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado. To learn more, drop by the Museum of Northwest Colorado at 590 Yampa Ave., or visit the museum’s Facebook page, facebook.com/MuseumNorthwestColorado.
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