As part of a broader initiative to get people back inside the Cranston Street Armory, West Broadway Neighborhood Association led its first Armory Open! Tours in partnership with the State of Rhode Island last Sunday during PVDFest's grand finale celebration in Dexter Training Ground.
With PVDFest's activities and the Cranston Street Armory Animated by Art project happening all around us, the Armory tours surpassed our goals of attendance and interest. Over two hundred people got inside the Armory, with all 16 tours reserved within an hour of opening and 123 people signed on to a waiting list for possible future tours. In addition, three Spanish-speaking tours were offered.
Our talented guides led well-paced, informative and orderly tours that took participants into the East Headhouse's Ball Room and offices; the enormous, nearly 62,000 square foot basement; and up the staircase of the West Headhouse; and finished at the Drill Hall with its 80 foot ceiling and square footage equalling nearly 4 football fields.
Outside, attached to a fence near the WBNA's red tent, was a banner (see photos above) made by Missy Bush-Sittler that prompted community members to share their memories of and visions for the Armory. Neighbors wrote ideas for the Armory's re-use that included a school, a community center, housing, and, quite popular, an indoor cultural and farmer's market.
Also available was The Providence Armory on Cranston Street, a historical booklet created by neighbor and author Taylor Polites. All profits from the booklet, which can be purchased from WBNA for $10, go towards our advocacy efforts to get people back into the Armory for positive, civic uses.
WBNA thanks the State of Rhode Island for coordinating access to the Armory for our tours, our volunteer tour guides, and all the people who came out to learn more about the Armory's past and to join in the conversation about its future.