Duluth Armory postcard, c. 1920
Duluth’s National Guard Armory, built in 1915, received a significant expansion through the Works Progress Administration on the eve of World War II. Minnesota’s WPA administrator, Sidney L. Stolte, announced the plans to “increase the size of the building, provide new meeting rooms, and extend the stage easterly” in the fall of 1940.
Architect Philip C. Bettenberg drew up the plans. Bettenberg had already designed armories throughout Minnesota, including those in Minneapolis and Brainerd.
A rift between the city and state regarding what type of curtain (steel or asbestos) should be used for the stage delayed the project. Construction was further postponed in February of 1941 due to growing hostilities abroad. Duluth’s National Guardsmen were quartered at the armory for mobilization.
The project finally began in April. The $95,896 expansion included a stage, classrooms, a kitchen, and restrooms, and it was completed by the end of 1941.
As the country’s furthest inland port, Duluth prepared the armory for possible attack during World War II with blackout screens and lightproof paint.
In May 1942, 1,800 Duluth high school students hosted the first event in the new space. The choir of 1,100 students and a 90-piece student orchestra performed to raise money for the war effort.
Project originally submitted by Natalie Heneghan on February 24, 2015.
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