Throughout its history the Aberdeen Armory Building has been a source of civic pride and activity. Indeed, at the time of its construction, the Armory was hailed as a truly imposing structure. An Aberdeen Daily World article of the period stated: "The Armory in its completed state will appeal to the pride of every resident of Aberdeen." The Armory has been a sound and stylish shelter for community affairs for the last 84 years. In its new role as the Aberdeen Museum of History, the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society, the Aberdeen Senior Community Center, and the Grays Harbor Community Action Program, it will have many years of valuable public service in the future.
The Aberdeen Armory Building currently houses the Aberdeen Museum of History, the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society, the Aberdeen Senior Community Center, and the Grays Harbor Community Action Project. But it wasn't always so! Let's go back and take a look at how this building was born and it's life up to now:
The Aberdeen Armory was a project five years in the making. The original 1917 State Legislative appropriation of $75,000.00 lapsed with the entrance of the United States into World War I. In 1919 the State Legislature again passed a bill, this time appropriating $100,000.00 for the project and creating a three member commission to choose a site. Initially, thirty sites were submitted for consideration; these were subsequently narrowed to six - prior to the final selection of the site at Thirs and "I" Streets.
The architects of the Armory were Lewis Svarz of Seattle, WA and C.A. Haynes of Aberdeen, WA. Final design of the building was completed on July 15th, 1921.
The builder of the Armory was L.P. Cysewski of Aberdeen, WA. The Armory's official project completion date was September 12th, 1922. Beginning with its formal dedication on July 4th, 1922 and the initial occupation by the 489th Comapny Coast Artillary Corps on September 22nd, 1922, the Armory was occupied by twelve different National Guard companies and battalions until final vacation by the guard in December of 1978
Because of the Armory's large main floor, during this period the building was offered as a mixed use facility hosting numerous non-military affairs such as basketball games, car shows, dances, auctions, and other public gathering events.
On March 18th, 1976 the Armory was purchased from the State by the Swanson Brothers, Carl and Charles, a well known local family who introduced the concept of "supermarket" to Grays Harbor. Their tenure of ownership was characterized as a period of general disuse of the building after the last National Guard battalion left in 1978.
On March 2nd, 1981 the Swanson Brothers donated the Armory to the City of Aberdeen, WA, with the condition that the building be used for public purposes only. Since that time the City has actively pursued reoccupancy and rehabilitation of the building. The major tenants are:
Since 1981 the City, the Aberdeen Museum of History, and the Community Action Council have infused nearly $250,000.00 into the structural rehabilitation of the building; fixing the roof, new electrical and communication services, heating system upgrade, and amenities such as a new paint job and window panes.
The beautifully-restored building you see represents twenty three years of private donations and volunteer labor. Each exhibit is a window into some part of Aberdeen's past. Throughout are rich signs of community pride on Grays Harbor.