The old armory, built by Joseph F. Kuntz, is constructed in the Moderne architectural style and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is home to the Indiana County Historical Society.
The construction of the Armory was started in 1922, and was occupied only by the National Guard until the present. This has resulted in the building being largely unchanged from its original state. The largest feature of the Armory is the Drill Hall, used for training and as a gymnasium. Additional rooms were used as offices, storage areas, locker rooms with shower facilities, and a small kitchen.
The Indiana division of the National Guard was recognized on December 10, 1875, two years after a group of 20 or men organized 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 first two of these men were Civil War veterans.
The Unit was redesignated several times. 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 was headquartered at a number of locations over the years, including both a former church and a former skating rink. Then, in 1914, the State Armory Board offered $30,000 in funds if a site were donated. Finally, in 1921, the present Washington Street site was donated and approved and construction was completed 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).
The Guardsmen were busy in their first twenty years, having been called several times to maintain order during labor disputes in the area. And from late July to early August 1877, they were stationed in Pittsburgh where strikers were inflicting great damage on the 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 so that another engine had 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 there 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 "scabs" were being attacked by mobs. Then in 1898, with the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, they were 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 autumn 1898.
They returned to national service in 1916 when they were sent to the Mexican Border. They returned from El Paso in October of that year. The following year, they were activated for World War I, designated Co. F, 110th Infantry. They were assigned to the 55th Brigade, 28th Division when they arrived at Camp Hancock, Augusta, Georgia. Their company was sent to Calais, France May 19, 1918, and were almost immediately in the battle zone. They were involved in a number of major war efforts there, including Chateau-Thierry, Fismes, and Meuse-Argonne. A few days over a year after they arrived in Calais, about half of these men returned to Indiana then. Besides those who had died overseas, many wounded men had returned earlier, and some had been transferred to other units during their period of service. The official records indicate that two officers and 28 enlisted men were killed, one officer and 13 men died of their wounds, and 9 officers and 266 men were wounded. Of course it must be remembered that these numbers include men who had joined Company F from other units. Their commander, Capt. Charles L. McLain, received the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre.
During the Johnstown Flood in 1936, the Guard were sent to help, standing guard at banks and at the train station. They were quartered in the high school during their time there. By February 1941, the membership had grown to 112 men. They were put back on active duty and sent to Indiantown Gap. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, they were used as "fillers" whenever there were vacancies in units throughout the remainder of the War. While they were gone, the Armory was used as 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 almost from nothing, 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 Genealogical and Historical 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.
The rehabilitation of the National Guard Armory, on 621 Wayne Avenue, a National Register property, was designed to serve as an archive and library facility for the County’s historical documents. The conversion consisted of the construction of a balcony inside the Drill Hall and a wheelchair lift to its displays dedicated to veterans. The drill hall floor now contains the library for the Indiana County Genealogical Society. There is ample room for research tables, special collections and interpretive displays.
The basement has space for workshops, conservation efforts and storage of the library’s large inventory of memorabilia and historical artifacts. The relocation of the documents to this facility completed the goals of the Historical Society to move its collections from the adjacent Silas M. Clark House, which was experiencing structural failure from the weight of the second floor storage. The Clark House and Armory form a campus of National Register Properties.
* History from the Historial and Genealogical Society of Indiana County