Armory & Police Court
Life Span: 1856-1871
Location: SW Corner Adams and Franklin Streets
Architect: Messrs. John M. Van Osdel & Frederick Baumann
Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1856
New City Armory and Firemen’s Building .—At its last meeting the Council directed the City Clerk to advertise for proposals for the erecting of the proposed City Armory and Firemen’s building, cor. of Adams and Franklin streets. The plans were drawn by Messrs. Van Osdel & Bauman, well-known Architects of this city, and the arrangement of the rooms seems admirably adapted to the purposes for which they are intended.
The building will be eighty feet on Franklin st., by ninety feet on Adams st., and some sixty-five feet in height, with an addition on Franklin street, 20 by 30 feet, for a circular stair, leading to the upper rooms, and connecting with a passage in the main building, and for a hose tower. The first and second stories will be 15 feet in height in the clear, and the third floor 21 feet.
The main floor is divided as follows:
The corner room is for Engine Co. No. 4, and is 22 feet 6 inches by 56 feet, having a main entrance on Adams street, and a side entrance on Franklin street, and is lighted by windows opening on the latter street; next on Adams street, is the room for the Hose Company No. 2, which will be 17 feet 6 inches wide, by 56 feet deep, entrance on Adams street, and is lighted from that street. In rear of the above-mentioned two rooms, is a hose depository, 20 feet 6 inches by 36 feet, with entrance on Franklin street. Next adjoining the Hose Company’s room, is one for Hook and Ladder Company No. 2, 18 feet 6 inches wide, by 77 feet deep, entrance on Adams street and lighted from front and rear. There is to be a row of seven small iron columns through the centre of this room, to support the floor of the small arms Armory, directly above, and in the rear a separate fire and bomb-proof powder magazine, two stories high, and connecting with both Armories. These vaults are 6 by 8 feet in the clear. At the end of the building, on Franklin street, is the addition, noticed alone, having a space for the circular stair, 18 feet 6 inches by 22 feet 6 inches, and in the rear a hose tower, 18 feet 6 inches by 6 feet 6 inches.
The first story is to be of Athens stone, and the others pressed brick. When completed, this structure will be, not only one of the finest and most imposing, but one of the most useful in the city. The necessity of a building of this character has long been felt, and we are glad that there is now a fair prospect of its erection this year. Those who are desirous of inspecting the plans and elevations of the building can do so by calling at the rooms of Messrs. Van Osdel and Bauman in the Masonic Temple.
The second story is divided as follows:
Meeting room for Engine Co. No. 4, on corner, 22 feet six inches, by 64 feet; meeting room for Hose Co. 2, 17 feet 6 inches by 64 feet; meeting room for Hook & Ladder Co. 2, 18 feet 6 inches by 64 feet. These rooms are directly over the fire company’s rooms on the first floor. In rear of these three rooms is a hall 11 feet 6 inches wide, by 58 feet 6 inches long, connecting the circular stair with the ante-room of the small arms Armory. The small arms Armory is in the west side of the building, lighted from Adams street, and 35 feet wide by 49 feet deep, with four iron columns through the centre. In rear of this is an ante-room, above noticed, 35 by 28 feet, with two iron columns in the centre. Opening from this ante-room is a powder magazine, 6 by 8 feet in the clear. The ante-room is lighted from the rear.
The third floor is one immense room, 77 by 97 feet in the clear, and 41 feet in height, without a break or column in it, covered by a self-supporting roof, and into which double doors open directly from the stairway. This is intended for a drill room and firemen’s Hall, and will be decidedly the largest and handsomest room in the city. It is extremely well lighted by large windows from the front, side and rear.
The Weekly Chicago Times, January 8, 1857 City Armory.—A three-story brick building, with stone fronts—100 by 100 feet, and 70 feet high. Van Osdel & Bauman, architects; cost 40,000.
Chicago Tribune, August 31, 1857 The New Armory.—The Chicago Light Artilery, Capt. Smith, are the earliest of our military to commence the occupancy of the new Armory, in which they took up their quarters of Friday of last week.
Chicago Tribune, June 9, 1859
The apartment in the Armory building occupied during the past winter as a Police Court, is rapidly being converted by paint and suitable furniture into the most comfortable Police Station in the city.
Chicago Tribune, January 24, 1861
The City Armory.
This ridiculous and shame-faced building which has always worn an air of doubt as to whether it was wanted and why it ever came at all, is known as “Dyer’s Folly,” being the appropriate but too expensive monument of the municipal reign of Thomas Dyer. It was intended for an Armory and Arsenal , but with the few exceptions of doubtful convenience and bad location to be hereafter noticed, the unhappy structure has been everything by turns, and nothing even possibly well. A mongrel affair, between a Police Station and a steam Fire Engine House, it has some points of military interest worth detailing.
Chicago Light Artillery
This is one of the oldest, if not indeed the senior of our city military organizations, organized in 1854. It is officered as follows: Capt. K. Taylor, Commanding; 1st Lieut., A. Grannis; 2d Lieut., Darius Knights; 3rd do, C.P. Bradley. They have fifty men on their rolls. Their accommodations in the Armory are admirably well kept. On the lower floor, opening on the Adams street front, are their four brass six pounders with caissons and harness complete, and the whole in excellent order. The company is made up of the better class of citizens, always present a fine appearance on parade, and are pronounced by military men to have few if any superiors in their branch of service. To this company recourse is frequently had for artillery salutes upon public occasions, a duty they always perform notably well. Altogether they are a live corps in every respect.
Chicago Light Dragoons
In another portion of the armory building the drill room of the brilliant but short-lived Chicago Light Dragoons, organized in 1856, which all our citizens will remember, with their jaunty scarlet hussar pelisses.The Dragoons owed their origin and speedy ascent into fame and favor to Capt. Charles W. Barker, their commander, a thorough officer and disciplinarian. This company attended last year the obsequies of the late Gov. Bissell at Springfield, where an entire mount for the day was given them by citizens, the company forming a brilliant feature in the funeral cortege of the departed soldier and Executive.
The money pressure proved too much for the gay and gallant dragoons, and the equipments of the late company, neatly kept and piled upon racks their drill room, tell their fate, which their empty roll reiterates. Their horse equipments belong to parties in St. Louis, and are to be returned to them. Their arms belong to the State. The sabres are in good condition. The pistols are of small account. Suitable encouragement would doubtless rally again the lively Dragoons under their colors of old.
Chicago Illustrated, November, 1866
ARMORY.—This building belongs to the city of Chicago. It was built in 1856-7, and was intended as a general building for the keeping, and storage of arms belonging to the various volunteer military companies of the city, and such guns and other arms as belong to the city. Hence, the name popularly given to the building. With the exception of being used in part by an artillery company, and for the storage of some muskets belonging to the city, it has long since lost all its military character.
The building is now used for police business. It contains the temporary prison for all persons arrested and awaiting examination by the magistrates. The police court, which meets twice a day, is held in this building, and the “Armory” is the scene wherein the degraded and the criminals of this great city appear and play their parts. The location of the building is in the very center of the abodes of crime, degradation and vice of every form, which, by some strange impulse, have gathered under the very walls of the tribunal where it is daily arraigned, subjected to penalties, and discharged, to be brought back, within a few hours, to pass through the same ordeal.
Chicago Tribune, November 29, 1871
Henry Ulrich, a policeman, stationed at the Armory, was called to give his statement of the turning off of the gas at the works. A frame building opposite the gas works took fire, and a shed of the gas works followed. An officer of the works said, “Boys, let the gas out of the big tank before it explodes,” but the policeman could not state how it was done. The retort house took fire before the Monroe street building. He had seen the big tank go down pretty rapidly, and the smell of the gas was very strong. As soon as the gas was let go, everything took fire in the neighborhood,—the gas works and the Armory and all the buildings. The Armory burned very rapidly. The fire struck the frame building adjoining the gas works first on the north side of Adams street. As soon as the gas was turned off the fire spread against the wind. He had not heard anything explode except a little powder in the Armory.
Armory J. M. Van Osdel Accounting Books
The Armory and Police Court
SW Corner Adams and Franklin Streets