In 1898, the Seventh Regiment of the National Guard of California celebrated the opening of its first dedicated armory, at the northwest corner of Eighth and Spring Streets. Designed by architect T. J. McCarthy, the three-story structure was built in a bristly Romanesque Revival style, then enjoying the height of its popularity in the design of local civic buildings. At the time of its completion, it was also one of the largest buildings in the southern part of the city.
For many years, the armory building had a mix of military and civilian uses that would seem unthinkable today. The lot was privately owned and developed by John S. Copeland, and the National Guard shared the building with three storefronts along Spring Street. Nonetheless, the armory was one of the most well-appointed military buildings in California, equipped with a drill hall, saddle room, officers’ quarters, reception rooms, and a gymnasium. It was also one of the few Romanesque Revival buildings whose turret was built with a functional purpose: the easy mounting of a Gatling gun (that convenience never became a necessity, thankfully).
The armory building also served briefly as the headquarters of the perennially mobile Post Office. In 1901, the Post Office moved out of its cramped offices near Fourth and Main Streets, installing its main office in the armory’s ground floor. The move proved to be extremely unpopular among the city’s business leaders, who found Eighth Street to be far too distant from the city center. In a biting editorial, the Los Angeles Times ridiculed the new location as being “somewhere out in the wilderness” and “handy for the farmers.” The criticisms however, failed to elicit any change. In 1904, the main Post Office moved to its next location at Seventh Street and Grand Avenue, hardly any closer to the center of business.
The National Guard vacated its old quarters in 1914 after the completion of a new armory in Exposition Park (now the Wallis Annenberg Building). The former armory spent the remainder of its life as a rather standard small commercial building, with its upper stories converted for use as a dance hall. Somehow, it stayed untouched by its neighborhood’s rapid redevelopment during the 1920s. Like all too many of Los Angeles’ forgotten landmarks however, it was ultimately torn down by its owner in 1938 to be replaced by a parking lot.
1. “Falling downtown walls peril office workers.” Los Angeles Times. 30 Oct 1938. 3.
2. “How the old postoffice does business at new stand.” Los Angeles Times. 13 Mar. 1901. 10.
3. “New armory opening brilliant function.” Los Angeles Times. 30 Jul. 1914. II6.
4. “Public buildings.” Los Angeles Times. 1 Jan. 1898. 24.
5. “Spring Street block bought.” Los Angeles Times. 1 Sep. 1920. II1
6. “The joys of moving the Los Angeles postoffice into the suburbs.” Los Angeles Times. 19 Mar. 1901. 6.
7. “The Seventh’s Armory,” Los Angeles Times. 5 Apr. 1897. 3.
Original photo: “External view of the Armory Building, on the corner of Eighth Street and Spring Street, Los Angeles, ca.1908 – chs-m1044.” Title Insurance and Trust/C. C. Pierce Photography Collection. USC Digital Library. USC Libraries Special Collections. http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/assetserver/controller/view/CHS-5184.