Print this Post

When Armouries were like castles

November 2020

Today, many institutional buildings today are little more than boxes with smooth surfaces, usually with exterior cladding of metal sheets or panels, and interiors of drywall and cinder blocks. There are rarely any ornate carvings and designs on the exterior walls, or hand-carved woodworking on the interior, as seen in many of the older, historic buildings that haven’t fallen to development or neglect.

For centuries, even the smallest communities had an armoury or drill shed at which the local Militia conducted training. Some were smaller that barn, and some were large ornate buildings, but all served their purpose in the defence the country.

In the years after Confederation, many new armouries were built in cities and towns across Canada. Over 100 drill halls and armouries were erected across Canada 1876 and 1918; eleven drill halls were built in Ontario alone. A large number of the armouries during this period were designed by David Ewart, who served as Chief Dominion Architect from 1896 to 1914, and who studied the architecture of Hampton Court and Windsor Castle.

Many were designed with classical inspiration; red brick buildings and quarry-faced stone, often times resembling castles, with medieval military features such as jutting towers, buttresses, dentilated stringcourses, corbelling, crenellations, battlements, along with a flat roof, stonework on the base, ornate crenellation, parapet walls and a large troop door reminiscent of a fortified gate. The foundation is frequently stone with a concrete floor supporting a steel frame, enclosing a large drill hall, with arched wood sash windows and doors.

Whether large, castle-like structures, or simpler buildings, all contained messes, classrooms, weapons lock-ups, storage facilities, and sometimes a firing range in the basement.

During the two world wars and the Korean War, the armouries frequently doubled as recruiting centres.

While some of old armouries remain in use by militia units, some have been repurposed for commercial, institutional or residential uses.

While there are many others out there, some of the armouries that have served, and continue to serve, Canada’s militia forces are:


Barrie Armoury:

The Barrie Armoury opened in 1916 as the new home of the 35th Battalion, The Simcoe Foresters, a militia infantry regiment. It was built in the mansard roofed Baronial-style.

The armoury replaced their previous armoury, the Mulcaster Street Armoury, a smaller drill shed-style armoury that was built in 1888. The Mulcaster Street Armoury was maintained as a satellite facility for the Simcoe Foresters until 1946.

The Barrie Armoury is large, red brick, mansard roofed Baronial-style building with sturdy projecting towers and a three-arched entrance.

In 1936, The Simcoe Foresters merged with the Grey Regiment, forming the Grey & Simcoe Foresters. The Barrie Battalion was designated “B” Company and the Grey Battalion was designated “A” Company.

The Barrie Armoury continues to serve as the home of “A” Company, along with 102 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron, 2919 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps, 53 Sea Cadet Corps and the Navy League Cadets of Barrie.


Belleville Armoury:

Opened in 1908 as the home of the 16th Prince Edward Regiment. The armoury is a low-pitched gambrel-roofed, stone and brick Baronial-style building, featuring a pair of tall towers on either side of the main entrance.

It currently houses “B Company” of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment.


Brampton Armoury


Brantford Armoury:

Opened in 1893 as the home of the 38th Regiment, Dufferin Rifles of Canada, the 25th Brant Dragoons and the 32nd Battery, Canadian field Artillery.

The armoury is an imposing structure, built in the Baronial-style, with a low-pitched gable roof is fronted by a monumental, fortress-like façade of brick and stone. The exterior masonry work features medieval military detailing, including buttresses, dentilated stringcourses, corbelling and crenellations.

The armoury, now known as the Sgt William Merrifield, VC, Armoury, currently houses the 56th Field Artillery Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, the successor regiment of the 38th Regiment.


Brockville Armoury:

Opened in 1901, the armoury is a large, low-massed, stone structure in the Romanesque style, with a low-pitched gable roof, projecting a massive, fortified appearance.

Flanked by rounded corner towers, its projecting frontispiece is pierced by an arched, double-storied troop entrance, the armoury was built to house the 41st Regiment “Brockville Rifles,” known since March 1920 simply as The Brockville Rifles.

It’s also a rare example of a smaller drill hall that was built using stone rather than the more typical brick.

The armoury continues to be the home of The Brockville Rifles, over a century later.


Cartier Square Drill Hall:

Built in 1879, the Dominion-style Gothic Rivival armoury features a low-pitched gable roof and two 141 foot tall mansard towers stand on either side of the main entrance.

Built to house the Governor General’s Foot Guards (GGFG) and the elements of the 43rd “Ottawa and Carleton” Battalion of Rifles, now known as The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (Duke of Edinburgh’s Own), the Officers’ Mess was where Sir Sam Hughes’ (the Minister of Militia and Defence at the time) made the official declaration of war by Canada in 1914.

Both the GGFG and the Cameron Highlanders still occupy the armoury, along with the 2784 Governor General’s Foot Guards Army Cadets (RCAC).


Cobourg Armoury:

Opened in 1904 as the home of the Cobourg Heavy Battery and the Northumberland Battalion of Infantry. The armoury was built in the Baronial-style, with a low-pitched gable roof.

During World War II, the armoury was the HQ for the 14th Field Artillery, the 347th Field and the 36th Field.

After the War, the 33rd Medium Regiment was stationed at the armoury. Summer recruit courses were held from 1957 – 1964.

The armoury was declared surplus and closed on 1 April 1970, ending 103 years of artillery in Cobourg.  It is now the Couburg Police station.


Dundas Armoury:

The armoury opened  on 1 November 1900, replacing the previous drill shed on King Street, built in the wake of the Fenian Raids on 1866. The armoury was built in the Baronial-style, with a low-pitched gable roof.

The new armoury was originally clad in wood siding and came complete with a rifle range in the basement.  It served as the home of the 77th Wentworth Regiment, which was re-named The Wentworth Regiment in 1920.

A fire damaged the armoury a few years later.  After being repaired, the building was bricked over.

During WWI, soldiers with the 129th Regiment, CEF, trained at the armoury before proceeding to further training at Camp Borden.  An addition was also added to the armoury during WWI.

On 15 December 1936, Headquarters and “C” Companies of The Wentworth Regiment amalgamated with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry at the James Street Armoury in Hamilton.  “A” and “B” companies remained at the Dundas Armoury, becoming an Artillery Regiment, the 102nd (Wentworth) Field Battery.

The 102nd was put on active service in on 24 May 1940 and re-designated as the 41st Light Anti-Aircraft Battery and the 102nd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, both of which served throughout Europe.

With the end of the war in 1945, the 102nd reverted to reserve status and for the next 25 years continued their function of providing fully trained and equipped troops to augment the regular army and for home defence.

The 102nd (Wentworth) Field Battery stood down on 31 March 1970 and the armoury closed.

Shortly afterwards, the building was taken over by the Dundas Lions Club for use as a recreation centre and meeting hall.

The building was renovated in the early 1970s and an addition was added in 2005.

The former armoury is used heavily by the community for many things such as meetings, dinners, seniors activities.

It’s also used for weekly drill training for the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets Corps Dundas.


Guelph Armoury:

Opened in 1907 to house the 11th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. The armoury is a late Gothic-Revival style brick building, heavily ornamented with rock-faced stone details contrasting the flat red bricks. Two-storey wings topped with battlements that flank the dominant three-storey centre pavilion, with its two jutting crenellated towers, and accents such as stringcourses, lintels and coping.

The crenellated towers flank the large troop door at the front of the armoury that is reminiscent of a medieval fortified gate.

The large drill hall area behind has a roof supported by steel Fink trusses.

The 29th Field Battery, 11th Field Artillery Regiment still occupies the armoury a century later.


Lieutenant-Colonel John Weir Foote, VC, CD Armouries (James Street Armouries):

One of the largest armouries still standing in Canada is the Lieutenant-Colonel John Weir Foote, VC, CD Armouries. Originally known as the James Street Armouries, it’s actually two separate armouries built 20 years apart, both built using red brick, with various decretive stone accents.

The North Drill Hall portion was built in 1888 in the Italianate Romanesque Revival-style, with an Empire-style gable-roofed drill hall and corner pavilions, and is one of five remaining examples of this style drill hall, which were built between 1872 and 1895.

The second, larger south section, was built in 1908, just to the south of the original building. Done in a high Victorian design, with a large, gable-roofed drill hall, surrounded by a second floor balcony fronting the messes and office space, and a stone base.

Both armouries feature military elements such as corner towers and troop doors topped by stone arches, as well as red brick with white stone trim, large round-headed windows, stone and brick buttresses along the side walls, and prominent decorative stringcourses.

The truss work spanning the roofs of both drill halls is a significant feature for their time. The North Drill Hall, with its exposed wooden truss system above the central parade ground, thought to be the oldest structure of its size in the city. The South Drill Hall features a steel truss system, which provided at the time what is believed to be the largest interior space of its type in the country.

A two-storey extension along James Street joined the two buildings together, with an archway providing access between the two buildings, providing a continuous red brick façade.

An addition at the back of the North Drill Hall in 1936, joined the two armouries on the Hughson Street side, creating an interior courtyard one large Neo-Gothic Dominion style building complex.

The armouries were contained two drill areas, classrooms, office space, messes, a small-arms range in the south building, recreational facilities, and modern washrooms, setting a new standard in the modernization of the militia at the time. 

The armouries now serves as headquarters for the 11th Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery; the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment); the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s); elements of the Hamilton Company of 31 Service Battalion; and the 705 Communications Squadron.

The armouries was renamed the Lieutenant-Colonel John Weir Foote, VC, CD Armouries, in memory of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry’s World War II Regimental Chaplain, in 1990.

Then Honorary Captain Foote deployed along with the members of the 1st Battalion, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, when the regiment took part in the ill-fated Dieppe Raid in August 1942. Reverend Foote’s actions that day earned him the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious British award for gallantry in the face of the enemy. He is also the only member of the Canadian Chaplain Corps to win the V.C.


Kingston Armoury:

Opened in 1900 to house the 14 Battalion, The Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment (PWOR), the two-storey armoury was built in the Baronial-style, with medieval revival features, using heavy Trenton limestone.

The main section of the armoury is a two-storey structure, with two flanking stair towers at either end. The towers feature large decorative corbels around top. There are two rows of evenly spaced, deeply set windows along the long wall and crenels across the frontispiece at parapet level.

In the centre of the façade is a three-storey projecting frontispiece with a troop door for the main entrance.

The roof of the drill hall area is composed of iron fink trusses, a typical feature of turn of the century armouries, allowing for large, open spaces.

The armoury also houses an Army cadet corps and the PWOR Regimental Museum.


London Armoury:

Opened at the corner of Dundas and Waterloo streets on 1 February 1905, the armories replaced a former drill shed and an earlier garrison building that had existed going back to the time of the Rebellion of 1837.  

The armoury was designed by David Ewart, who designed many of the armouries constructed in Canada around this time, and was built by the firm of Sullivan and Langdon, for a cost of about $135,000.

The armoury was built in the Baronial-style, with a low-pitched gable roof. It features two massive, three-storey, crenelated towers at the entranceway, smaller corner towers, octagonal chimneys, and large, arched windows, similar to others built during this period, such as the now demolished University Avenue Armouries in Toronto.

Both the 1st Hussars, now an armoured unit, and the 7th Fusiliers, now 4th Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, occupied the armoury.

The armoury closed in 1978.  After standing vacant for many years, Donald Wharton had succeeded  in converting the armoury into a hotel.  The shell was maintained, but the interior was gutted and a high-rise tower was constructed in the centre of the building.  The armoury re-opened as the Wharton Hotel in 1986.

In succeeding years, the hotel became the Sheraton Armouries Hotel and finally the Delta London Armouries Hotel.


Major F.A. Tilston, VC, Armoury (The Windsor Armoury):

The original Major F.A. Tilston Armoury opened in 1900 near the corner of University Ave West & Ouellette Ave in downtown Windsor. The armoury was originally named the Windsor Armoury, but this was later changed to honour WWII Victoria Cross winner Frederick Albert Tilston.

The armoury is a two-storey, red brick Baronial-style building with a three-storey tower is centrally-located.

After one hindered years of use, the armoury was much too small for its tenants – The Windsor Regiment, The Essex & Kent Scottish Regiment, and the 21 Service Battalion. The armoury had originally been built to house one infantry unit, and was never intended to also house the vehicles that a mechanized unit would require.

In 2003, The Department of National Defence and the City of Windsor entered into a unique arrangement: a joint training facility for use by both the Army Reserves and the Windsor Police. The new armoury, located on the corner of Sandwich Street and Ojibway Parkway, opened in June 2004.

On 16 October 2004, The Windsor Regiment, The Essex & Kent Scottish Regiment, the 21 Service Battalion and the Windsor Police Service held an official march-out parade from the old Tilston Armoury to the new Major F.A. Tilston, VC, Armoury and Police Training Centre, formally closing the door on over 100 years of army presence in downtown Windsor.

In 2011, the University of Windsor  announced that it will relocate its Music and Visual Arts programs to the Armouries building.

In 2015, renovations on the former armoury began to convert the existing 46,400 square foot building into a 66,000 square foot home for the combined programs in of the School of Music, the School of Visual Arts and the new Film Production Program.  The building was officially opened to students in January 2018, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on 22 March 2018.

A second floor was added, along with a smaller third floor, providing space for building services  A full basement was also dug under the entire building.

A partial demolition of the southern end of the building allowed for the addition of a 140-seat performance hall.

The amouries also features classrooms, seminar and meeting and study rooms, computer facilities, practice studios, art and architecture studios, and offices.

During the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was attended by a representative from the Essex & Kent Scottish Regiment, the main foyer was named Veterans Hall.


Niagara Falls Armoury:

Opened in 1911 in Niagara Falls, the armoury was one of 11 armouries built during the period of expansion of the Canadian militia, and served as a recruiting and training centre during World War I.

Built in the Baronial Gothic Revival-style, the armoury is constructed of red brick with a stone foundation, stone sills, window surrounds, decorative shields, a triple Tudorbethan gothic arch and projecting surround at the front entrance.

From 15 December 1914 until 31 August 1918, the Ukrainian and other European immigrants as “enemy aliens”.

The armoury would eventually be home to a company of the Lincoln & Welland Regiment and the 56th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA).

The Niagara Falls Armoury closed on 21 November 1999 and was transferred to the Canada Lands Corporation.  It’s now the home of the Niagara Military Museum.


Peterborough Armoury:

Opened in 1909 and built in the Boronial-style, with turrets, arched troop doors with a cannonball motif and a crenellated roof line, a façade of smooth red brick with a contrasting rough-faced stone foundation and strong stone accents.

The armoury is one of the largest examples from the period.

The drill hall portion has high, arched window, counters the horizontal emphasis of the principal façade.

The armoury is currently home to “B Company” or “Moro Company,” of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment.


Picton Armoury:

The Picton Armoury was built in 1913, as the home for the 16th Prince Edward Regiment (16 PER), a local militia unit with origins dating back to 1863.

On 12 March 1920, 16 PER was amalgamated with the 49th Regiment Hastings Rifles to form The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment (H&PER), also known as the “Hasty Ps,” with Companies in Picton, Belleville and Peterborough.

During both World Wars the Armoury served as a recruiting depot, drill hall and home base/training camp for local militia unit, the Hasty P’s.

For years after, the Armoury continued to be a vibrant building in this community, hosting community dances, badminton tournaments, and even served as a school in the 1950s, when the town’s school was destroyed by a fire.

Following the Militia Reorganization of 1965, the Picton Company was reduced to nil strength, and the armoury closed.  Personnel moved to the regimental HQ in Belleville.  After the H&PER left the armoury, it was severely neglected for years, falling into disrepair. 

Over those years, the former armoury was used for a variety of community functions, but in September 2017, the building was fully restored. 

Today, the former Picton Armoury is a commercial multi-use space that includes retail, office, and public-use facilities, with community-based events, art exhibits, office space and even a gym, utilizing the building.


St Catharines Armoury (Lake Street Armoury):

Opened in 1905, as the home of the 19th St. Catharines Regiment, the armoury is a large, brick Baronial-style building, with a low-pitched gable roof. The rectangular shape of the armoury is accented by the irregular roofline and the contrast of its two basic constituents, along with crenellated towers, jutting chimneys and stone detailing around the troop door.

The roof of the drill hall area is expanded by overhead Fink truss system.

Today, the armoury is home to 10th Battery, 56th Field Artillery Regiment (RCA), and The Lincoln and Welland Regiment.


St Thomas Armoury


Toronto Armouries (University Avenue Armouries)

Opened in 1894, the Toronto Armouries was once the largest armoury in Canada, training over 250, 000 soldiers from various regiments from the Boer War to the Korean War.

Designed in the Romanesque Revival-style, the drill hall was 280 feet by 125 feet, with 72 foot high ceiling.

Built using Kingston limestone foundation and red brick walls that were 6 feet thick, with features like towers and castellations.

The Queen’s Own Rifles were the first regiment to move into the armoury, followed by the Governor-General’s Body Guards (GGBG).

Over the years, the 48th Highlanders, the 29th Field Artillery Regiment, 5 Column, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC) and the 42nd Medium Artillery Regiment also called the Toronto Armouries home.

The armouries was where the funeral of Major-General Sir Henry Pellatt, CVO, the original owner of Casa Loma, was held in 1939. On other occasions, civilian car shows and horse shows were held using the large drill hall, along with various military and civilian social functions.

After serving the Toronto Garrison through World War I, World War II and the Korean War, where 250,000 soldiers trained, progress spelt the end of the historic armoury. The Metropolitan Toronto government wanted to build a new courthouse on the armoury property, resulting in the closure and demolition of the historic armoury in 1963.

The “Preserve The University Avenue Armories Association,” composed of various historical societies, was formed to help save the building, but to no avail.

The Queen’s Own Rifles re-located to the Richmond Street Armoury, and then to the newly-opened Moss Park Armoury in 1965, as did the 48th Highlanders after a stop-over at Fort York Armoury.

The GGBG, who had amalgamated with The Mississauga Horse in 1936 to become the Governor-General’s Horse Guards, relocated to the Denison Armoury, just south of RCAF Station Downsview, along with 5 Column, (RCASC), which merged with other service support units to become 2 Toronto Service Battalion.

The 42nd Medium Artillery Regiment moved to Falaise Barracks on Lake Shore Boulevard, but was reduced to nil strength on 18 February 1965. The 29th Field Artillery Regiment re-located to the Richmond Street Armoury, but it too was reduced to nil strength on 15 March 1965.

Both the 29th Field Regiment, 42nd Medium Regiment, along with the 1st Artillery Locating Regiment, were merged and stood-up as the 7th Toronto Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery.

The Metropolitan Toronto Courthouse opened in 1967, and remains an active courthouse today.

Outside the new courthouse, at the corner of University Avenue and Armoury Street, is a large plaque that marks the spot of the armories building. A stone from the building was used as the cornerstone for the Moss Park Armoury.


Woodstock Armoury


While the following armouries looked less like castles, many were also in a Baronial style or Neo-Gothic style, and while lacking things like turrets, still evoke a fort-like structure; a grander style than seen in many of today’s bland, sterile buildings.


Aurora Armoury:

Built in 1874 as a drill shed for the 12th Battalion of Infantry, also known as the York Rangers, in the Dominion Neo-Gothic style. 

The regiment amalgamated with the Queen’s Rangers, 1st American Regiment on 15 December 1936, becoming the Queen’s York Rangers (1st American Regiment).

The Armoury originally had dark wooden exterior wall, but in 1941, the exterior was covered with white painted lumber siding.  This wood siding was eventually covered over with white vinyl siding.

By 2012, the 138 year old armoury was deemed insufficient for the Queen’s York Rangers, now an armoured reconnaissance regiment.  The regiment moved to a new armoury on Industrial Parkway South, the John Graves Simcoe Armoury, a little over a mile to the south-east of the old armoury.

The historic Aurora Armoury, one of the oldest purpose built armouries still in existence, can still be found on Larmont Street.  It has been completely restored and now houses the Aurora Campus of the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College.


Fort York Armoury:

Fort York Armoury, built in 1933, is unique in Canadian armouries in that it was built using private funds and boasts the largest lattice wood arched roof in Canada at nearly 125 feet. The armoury stands near the historic Fort York from the War of 1812.

The main entrance of the two storey armoury, built with brown brick, features classical architectural elements known as pilasters, used to give the appearance of a supporting column. The coat of arms of the Dominion of Canada sits above the flat keyed arch of the main entrance.

The armoury currently houses The Royal Regiment of Canada, Queen’s York Rangers (1st American), 32 Signal Regiment (formerly 709 (Toronto Communication Regiment), and 32 Canadian Brigade Group Battle School. Past regiments housed at the armoury are the Toronto Scottish Regiment, 2 Field Engineer Regiment, 1st Battalion, Irish Regiment and The 48th Highlanders of Canada.

The cap badges of each original regiment are carved in stone set in the parapet over doorways opening to ornamental iron balconies.


Listowel Armoury:

Opened in 1914 as the home of the 100th (R) Field Battery, R.C.A.  The armoury is now the home of the Listowel Agricultural Society.


 O’Kelly VC Armoury

Built in 1913 for the 96th The Lake Superior Regiment, in what was then Port Arthur, the most striking features of what was then called the Thunder Bay Armoury, the building are the continuous stone lintels and window wells which form a stark contrast with the red brick walls. The deeply recessed entrance features a segmental arch which bears the name Armoury in relief.

The roof of the drill hall section employs steel trusses, which allows the use of large glazed areas between piers, a characteristic feature of pre-First World War armoury design.

In 1990, the Thunder Bay Militia District Headquarters officially re-named the armoury “The Major Christopher Patrick John O’Kelly, VC, MC Armoury,” shortened to “O’Kelly, VC Armoury,” in honour of Major Christopher O’Kelly, a member of the 52nd Battalion (New Ontario), CEF (stood-up in Port Arthur), who won the Victoria Cross for actions at the battle of Passchendaele, Belgium, in 1917.

The O’Kelly, VC Armoury remains the home to The Lake Superior Scottish Regiment.


Orillia Armoury:

Opened on West Street North on 18 September 1913 at a cost of $30, 000.

The main floor contained a drill Hall, six rooms for storage, and a caretaker’s residence.  The basement contained two furnaces, lavatories and a shooting gallery.  The upper floor held the men’s quarters, plus one room for officers and one for sergeants.

The armoury housed the 76th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force from October 1915 until the Battalion deployed to Europe in April 1916.

C company, 157th (Simcoe Foresters) Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force then took over the armoury, with the 177th (Simcoe Foresters) Battalion housed at the curling rink.

In order to train for the trench warfare the soldiers would face in Europe, a trench system was dug on the north-west corner of the armoury property.

In 1936, the Grey Regiment and The Simcoe Foresters amalgamated and the Orillia company was designated “C” Company, The Grey & Simcoe Foresters.

The Orillia Armoury closed in 1968.

Georgian College took over the armoury to house their Orillia campus, but by 1973, the college had outgrown the building. Three portables were added to the campus and the administrative offices were located on Mississauga Street in downtown Orillia, but this still wasn’t enough.

The former armoury was sold again renovated into apartments, the Georgian Apartments.


Wingham Armoury:

Opened in 1914 as the home of the 21st Field Regiment, Headquarters Company and 99th Battery.

It served as the headquarters for the Wingham Police Service until the service was disbanded on 21 February 2019.  It has been vacant ever since.

The armoury’s heritage designation was revoked in 2020 and it’s unknown what will become of the aging building.


United States:

I would like to include some American armories:

Cleveland Grays Armory:

Opened in 1893, the Cleveland Grays Armory in Cleveland, Ohio, is an urban fortress, built in the Richardsonian Romanesque Revival-style.

Built for the Cleveland Grays, a private militia company formed in 1837, it was the fifth and final home for the Grays.

Private militia companies were common in the early because state politicians frequently underfunded and neglected government militia, or constitutional militia, companies.provide assistance to civil authorities and for the defence of the city,

The main portion of the armory is four-stories high, along with a five-story tower in the northeast corner. The main entrance has an arch atop polished granite columns, with a black iron drop-gate and a gothic barrier between the front steps and the large solid-oak doors. The windows on the first floor have pointed iron rods bolted to the red brick walls.

The armory also featured a 140 foot shooting range in the basement, an equipment room with lockers and a place for arms, a parade square, a billiard room, and a banquet hall.

The Grays saw active service during the Civil War and the Spanish–American War. During the Civil War, the Grays were the first company to volunteer for active service on 14 April 1861. The Grays served as Company E, 1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry; as a part of the 84th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and by 1863, as Company A, 150th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. While attached to these regiments, the Cleveland Grays took part in the First Battle of Bull Run, the defence of Washington, D.C. and the Confederate’s Valley Campaigns.

While the Cleveland Grays had a proud history of service, the beginning of the end came with the dawn of the 20th century.

Military reforms in the early 1900s led to the introduction of the Militia Act of 1903. Further legislative reforms spelled the end of the official participation of private military companies with government military forces.

Members of the Cleveland Grays were permitted to serve with the Ohio National Guard (ONG) during the Mexican Punitive Expedition of 1916-17, also known as the Pancho Villa Expedition, an operation against Mexican revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa. However, they were not considered members of the Grays on attachment. They were no different than any other private citizen who volunteered.

It was the same stipulation when these Grays members were released from the ONG to serve in World War I, the last time members of the Grays served en masse, although individual members have served in later wars and conflicts.

After World War I, the Cleveland Grays were maintained as a social group and historical society, devoted to the promotion of patriotism and the preservation of the military heritage of Greater Cleveland. The Grays also act as an educational and philanthropic group.

The armory itself was frequently used for community events. As it was one of the largest auditoriums at the time, orchestras and opera companies frequently gave performances within its walls. The Cleveland Orchestra played their very first concert series at the armory in 1918.

Today, the Cleveland Gray’s Armory Museum, which houses various artifacts from the history of the unit, allows visitors to learn about the history and accomplishments of the Grays, all while taking in the beauty and majesty of the armory.

The Grays Armory can also be rented for special events such as private parties, weddings and receptions.


Tonawanda Castle Armoury:

Tonawanda Armory was opened in 1897, as an armory for the 25th Separate Company of the National Guard. The huge two-storey, 38, 000 square foot armory, with deep red mason brick walls and a Warsaw blue granite foundation, was built in the Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style.

Complete with two turrets, one a five storey octagonal tower that doubled as an air observation post during both World Wars, and the other a two storey round tower, the armory was also a popular venue for military and civilian social and sporting events, held in the large, 1 12 storey, gable-roofed drill hall area.

Over the next 100 years, various militia regiment companies have occupied the armory, including 3rd New York Volunteers; G Company, 1st Infantry Battalion; K Company, 74th Infantry Regiment; and various companies of the 174th Infantry Regiment.

The Tonawanda Armory closed in 2003, and was sold the following year.

New owner Mostafa Tanbakuchi completely restored the aging armory and it now operates as a banquet facility, named Tonawanda Castle.

The City of Tonawanda declared 17 February as Tonawanda Castle Day in the city.


Sources: Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_armouries_in_Canada, https://militarybruce.com/abandoned-canadian-military-bases/abandoned-armouries/ontario, https://looklocalmagazine.com/blog/2015/08/27/the-delta-london-armouries-hotel-is-a-unique-destination, https://hmhps.ca/sites/halifax-armouries, https://wellingtontimes.ca/renaissance, https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=4809m http://www.doingourbit.ca/blog/8792, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartier_Square_Drill_Hall, https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=7626, https://stories.thespec.io/2015/11/06/flashbacks-the-armoury, https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_fhbro_eng.aspx?id=2735, http://ontariowarmemorials.blogspot.com/2019/01/hamilton-lt-coljohn-weir-foote-armoury.html, https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=3308, https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_fhbro_eng.aspx?id=3419, https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_fhbro_eng.aspx?id=3762, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_Armories, https://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=4345, https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_fhbro_eng.aspx?id=4391, http://www.11rca.ca/history_guelph.html, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_York_Armoury, https://tonawandacastle.com/our-history, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7th_Toronto_Regiment, RCA, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonawanda_Armory, https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/armories/Tonawanda.html, Parks Canada – Armoury (pc.gc.ca), Captain C.P.J. O’Kelly, VC.MC – World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project (tbayworldwarone.com).

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/when-armouries-were-like-castles/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>