The Historic Armories of Rhode Island

Rhode Island is home to 18 historic armories, located in eleven different towns. From north to south, they are:

  • The Woonsocket Armory, 350 South Main Street, Woonsocket – 1912
  • The Gloucester Light Infantry Armory, Dorr Dr, Chepachet (Gloucester) – c1865
  • The Pawtucket Armory, 172 Exchange Street, Pawtucket – 1894-1895
  • The Armory of Mounted Commands, 1051 North Main St., Providence – 1913-14 & 1923-1925
  • The Providence Armory, 225 Dexter Street, Providence – 1903-1907. This is the largest of the 18 historic armories.
  • The Benefit Street Arsenal, 176 Benefit Street, Providence – 1839-1840
  • The Armory of the Pawtuxet Rangers, 59 Remington Street, Warwick – 1843
  • The Kentish Artillery Armory, 3259 Post Road, Warwick – 1912. This building was used as an armory until 1977, when the building was deeded to the city. Today, it houses the Warwick Museum of Art..
  • The Armory of the Warren Federal Blues, 42 Baker Street, Warren – c. 1865
  • The Warren Artillery Armory, 11 Jefferson Street, Warren – 1842
  • The Bristol Naval Reserve Armory, Thames Street, Bristol – 1896
  • The Bristol Train of Artillery Armory, 135 State Street, Bristol – 1842
  • The Varnum Memorial Armory, 5 Main Street, East Greenwich – 1913
  • The Armory of the Kentish Guards, 1774 Armory St., East Greenwich – 1843
  • The Newport Armory, 365 Thames Street, Newport – 1894
  • The Armory of the Artillery Company of Newport, 23 Clark Street, Newport – 1835-1836
  • Rodman Hall Armory-Gymnasium, University of Rhode Island, Kingston (South Kingstown) – 1928. It is today used by the state university for classrooms and for the Community Planning Department.
  • The Westerly Armory, Railroad Avenue & Dixon Street, Westerly – 1901-1902. This armory today serve as a museum of military and community memorabilia, and has become a social and cultural centre for the local community. It is home to the Westerly Band, the oldest civic band in the country, and houses a historical library.

What is an armory?

An armory is a location for the safe storage of arms and ammunition.  Arsenal and armoury (British English) or armory (American English) are mostly regarded as synonyms, although subtle differences in usage exist.

About the historic armories of Rhode Island

In addition to being used as armories, these 19th and early 20th century buildings have served – and is serving – a multitude of purposes within their local communities. There is a tradition on Rhode Island of using them for dances, wedding receptions and other forms of merryment, but also for more serious tasks, such as voting and polio vaccination stations.

Seven of the 18 armories are currently occupied by state-chartered militia units, and one is occupied by the Rhode Island National Guard (Army of Mounted Commands).

The armories are varied in their design, reflecting local tastes and needs, and the changing styles of military architecture over a time period of nearly a century. The selection includes everything from wood-framed neo-classical buildings to granite and brick structures inspired by medieval strongholds. The oldest of the 18 armories, the Armory of the Artillery Company of Newport, was built in 1835-1836. The youngest is the Rodman Hall Armory in Kingston, erected in 1928.

The Armory of the Artillery Company of Newport

Directions: 23 Clarke Street, Newport, RI

Dating back to 1835-1836, the Armory of the Artillery Company of Newport is the oldest of the 18 historic armories in Rhode Island. It was built for the Newport Artillery Company, a group chartered in 1741 by the Rhode Island General Assembly. This is the oldest military unit in the United States operating under its original charter.

The armory is a stone and brick building constructed in Greek Revival style. The master stonemason was Alexander McGregor, who had come to the United States ten years prior to construct Fort Adams in Newport.

The orignal armory was smaller than today´s. The building was extended about 50 feet west around the year 1875, and a second story was added in 1906 when the armory was being repaired after a fire.

Today, the armory houses of museum for the Newport Artillery Company. Among other things, this museum showcases several artillery pieces, including four bronze cannons cast for the state of Rhode Island by Paul Revere in 1798. Other examples of notable memorabilia is a portrait of George Washington painted by Jane Stuart.

The collection also includes militiary uniforms from over 50 different nations, and uniforms that once belonged to prominent persons such as HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten of Burma, HM King Hussein of Jordan, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, General Colin Powell, General David M. Shoup, General Creighton Abrams, General William Westmoreland, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Admiral Cameron Winslow, and Colonel Katherine Amelia Towle.