Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oregon Guard closes 100-year old armory

A week ago tomorrow, the Cottage Grove Armory closed its doors for the last time.

During a ceremony on Feb. 6, a number of people--National Guard members, community members, families and the general public, honored the city of Cottage Grove and the historical site.

The 100-year old landmark is the oldest in the state. The original building was constructed in 1909 at the corner of Main Street and North River Road, on the site of the old Masonic Lodge. The armory housed Company E, 4th Infantry until 1911, when the unit was reassigned as 6th Co., Coast Artillery. Cottage Grove remained the home of this unit until the advent of the 186th Infantry in 1952.

The newer armory, completed in 1931, quickly turned into a local community gathering place. It even hosted Oregon Governor Julius L. Meier during the dedication ceremony. The facility cost $60,000 to build, and was completed almost entirely using local labor and materials. Over the years, it hosted basketball games, roller skating, dances, BMD queen coronations, concerts and the occasional graduation ceremony. Most recently it has been the training home for Northwinds School of Gymnastics.

In 1961, the armory became the new home of HH Co., 2-162 Infantry Battalion--a unit which served in England during WWI, and as part of the 41st Division, served the longest deployments during WWII. It later served with distinctions during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004-2005.

The Oregon National Guard has moved their personnel to the $39 million, 170,000-square-foot Lane County Armed Forces Reserve Center in Springfield, Ore. They will share the facility with the Marine Corps, and Naval Reserve, local branches of the U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management.

Following the ceremony on the cold, rainy day, the American flag was lowered and folded for the last time. It was cased and presented to city officials as the sound of bagpipes echoed through the quiet streets.

After the Oregon Guard has vacated the building, it will go through a month-long cleaning, appraisal and environmental study. It will then be offered to other agencies for purchase, and if there are no takers, it will go on to public sale. According to many reports, the city of Cottage Grove is hoping to purchase the building, and turn it once more into a centerpiece, and gathering place for their town.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Emerging Media Manager, Oregon Military Department
(Special thanks to duchompski for the photo!)

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